Finding Meaning In Dreams:
A Quantitative Approach
New Introduction, 2004
Because the field of dream research is very small, and because advances are slow in terms of solid and reliable studies, Finding Meaning in Dreams: A Quantitative Approach is still the most comprehensive overview of empirical findings on dream content, even though it was published in 1996.
For example, Chapter 4 draws together several different studies to show that the dreams of college students did not change over a period of 50 years; the few recent studies show there still has been no change. Chapter 5 draws together findings on the relationship between age and dream content, showing that dream content changes greatly from childhood to late adolescence, then stays fairly constant until old age, when there might be a slight decline in aggression and negative emotions; once again, the few recent studies, some of which are discussed in Avila-White, Schneider, & Domhoff (1995), show the same pattern.
Chapter 6 is the best summary of cross-cultural studies to date, some of which appeared for the first time in this chapter. Chapter 7 is likely to remain the definitive study of the consistency of dream content over time because it is based on several highly detailed studies of long-term dream journals; the amount of time and effort that Calvin S. Hall put into these careful studies was extraordinary by any standard because he wanted to be sure that this unexpected discovery about dream content was correct. And indeed it is, as two or three more recent studies have shown.
Chapter 8 brings together the best case studies of the relationship between dream content and personal concerns. It features studies of dreams from Freud, Jung, Kafka, a child molester, a young male neurotic, and several everyday people who kept dream journals. The chapter also summarizes the literature on the dreams of mental patients, which has barely changed since the book was published.
Although the empirical findings are the most important part of the book, the more speculative final chapter is still the most complete summary of the evidence that there is a great deal of repetition in what any person dreams about. It discusses the dreams of post-traumatic stress disorder and recurrent dreams as well as findings from content analysis. (For an updated and edited version of this chapter, see "The Repetition Principle in Dreams" in the Dream Library.)
As for the first few chapters -- which cover methodological issues -- they have been mostly superseded by chapters 2, 3, and 4 in The Scientific Study of Dreams: Neural Networks, Cognitive Development, and Content Analysis. Also, much of the methodological information is included on this Web site. However, these chapters do contain critiques that cannot be found elsewhere of the many inadequate rating systems used by some researchers. They also critique several weak studies that should not be used as a basis for theorizing about dreams.
Continue on to Chapter 1
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