Data-Mining Our Dreams

The New York Times:

ARE dreams really meaningful?

Virtually every culture throughout history has developed methods to interpret dreams — most notably, in the modern era, the psychoanalytic approach. But today many people assume that this quest has failed. Science, they say, has proved that dreams are just random signals sent from primitive regions of the brain, signifying nothing, and that dream interpretation is a kind of superstition.

This conclusion is premature. For many years, researchers (including me) have been using quantitative methods of analysis to study the content of dreams. The findings from these studies provide compelling evidence that dreaming is not meaningless “noise” but rather a coherent and sophisticated mode of psychological functioning.

The emergence of modern digital-search technology has raised the intriguing possibility of pushing Calkins’s rather slow and labor-intensive approach to new levels of speed and sophistication. What if the coding categories she and others have used could be transformed into computer algorithms that automatically analyze not just hundreds but thousands or even millions of dreams? What new patterns and subtler dimensions of meaning might we identify?

To take the first step in exploring that possibility I have conducted several experiments in “blind analysis,” a technique developed with the help of the psychologist G. William Domhoff at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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