Analysis of psychological theories involving functions of dreams

In the previous few decades, scientists have conducted much research with regards to the functions of sleep and fantasizing. Although the primary function of rest is unknown, experts have shown through experimentation that sleeping is a natural requirement generally in most animals.

In contrast, the function and importance of dreams remain widely debated. Possible functions of dreams posed include developmental, evolutionary, and psychological, and these functions bring physical, mental, and social health implications. A number of neural correlates have been linked to dreaming, particularly those involved with rapid-eye activity, or REM sleep. Furthermore, three main explanations are suffering from as to the reasons dreams appear: psychoanalytic, psychobiological, and cognitive.

The psychoanalytic theory originated in the first years of mindset, with Freud at the forefront. The psychobiological theory, on the other palm, requires a more biological procedure dominated by empirical research; the neural correlates which may have been linked to dreaming will be the basis for a lot of the psychobiological theory. The third justification, called the cognitive model, is more vibrant than the psychoanalytic or psychobiological models; this explanation blends ideas from both of the prior models, and also incorporates the consolidation hypothesis, which explains a possible function for sleep.

The consolidation hypothesis was developed from Jenkins and Dallenbach's (1924) experiment in which they analyzed the functions of sleeping in regards to learning. They discovered that subjects who had been allowed to sleep after learning something new experienced better storage retention than those who were denied rest. The researchers presumed that sleep aids in the consolidation of new information, that allows for a faster and much more correct retention rate of information (Dallenbach, 1924). But the cognitive description for the function of dreams utilizes empirical data for support, it also utilizes the consolidation hypothesis to be able to help clarify and interpret the empirical research that has been done pertaining to dreams. While all three ideas make compelling arguments regarding the possible function of dreams, the cognitive model appears to be the most plausible, incorporating elements from the other ideas and providing a fresh model with which to check out dreams and their importance.

Main Body

Louis Breger proposes three purposes for dreams in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. The first purpose is of a developmental character. He issues to articles from 1966 that advises REM sleep is important in the first stages of the central nervous system's (CNS) development. In this article, entitled 'Ontogenetic Development of the Man Sleep-Dream Circuit, ' Roffwarg and co-workers declare that REM sleep's main function during development is to aid the maturation of the CNS; in simple fact, infants spend roughly 50% of their own time in the REM sleeping stage. Roffwarg's team hypothesizes that there surely is an 'endogenous stimulation' (Breger, 1967, p. 2) that occurs during REM that impacts CNS development in a good way. Since much of thinking occurs during REM sleeping, maybe it's implied that dreams play a crucial role in the beneficial arousal of CNS development. This developmental role dreams play has some mental and physical health implications; if the CNS does not develop properly, for example, the average person could be stricken with a number of CNS disorders that influence mental and physical development.

When considering the evolutionary function of fantasizing, Breger references a 1966 article written by the chief of psychophysiology of sleeping at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) through the 1960s. Dr. Frederick Snyder (1966) shows that REM sleep, during which dreams arise, is an essential, preparatory state for organisms. REM operates as a multi-tasking watchman; it allows the organism to engage in much-needed rest, while also keeping a close eye out for symptoms of imminent harm (Snyder, 1966). Because REM sleep is seen as a brain waves that directly match the waves of the alert organism, it allows the organism to awake suddenly and slightly alertly if needed. This semi-alert state that dreams provide during REM have some physical health implications. For instance, organisms that goal might awaken quicker in response to risk than those that do not fantasy, and this quick response to danger provides organisms that perfect an evolutionary gain.

Breger also proposes a emotional function for dreams, a function that relates both developmental and evolutionary aspects of fantasizing to the mental reasoning behind why dreams arise. Breger (1967) shows that REM sleep places the stage for the function of dreams later in life, which is to help 'combine recent perceived type into existing inner set ups' (p. 4). Regarding to Breger, the maturation from REM rest to complex thinking is a psychological one, and to be able to understand the internal function of dreams, one must look at the theories which have developed behind why dreams happen.

Psychoanalytic theory

Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, author of The Interpretation of Dreams (1899/1911), was main psychologists to address a function for dreams. Freud believed that dreams could be interpreted structured upon his psychoanalytic theory, also called Freudian psychology. Freud developed his theory round the workings of your brain, which he compartmentalized into the conscious and unconscious mind. Additionally, his theory includes explanations regarding the psychosexual development of humans founded after the three components of human being personality: the id, the ego, and the superego. According to Freud, much information could be learned about a patient's personality and wishes by conducting wish analyses.

To Freud, the capability to interpret dreams is a beneficial one, just because a dream contains key information about the physical, mental, and interpersonal health of its beholder. Freud produces his psychoanalytic theory of dreaming within the Interpretation of Dreams by first criticizing old theories that make clear the existence of dreams. For instance, Freud (1899/1911) criticizes German physiologist Karl Friedrich Burdach, who believed that dreams have nothing at all to do with the waking express; on the contrary, Freud believes that dreams materialize anticipated to a lack of contentment in the waking express. During Freud's remedy lessons, patients would recount dreams and he would examine them. Particularly, Freud analyzed the dreams for just about any underlying thoughts or repressed wants which may be unacceptable to tone of voice in a mindful state. Through this kind of dream research, Freud noticed that certain words have other meanings that signify thoughts or hopes that might not be appropriate to express in a conscious state. For instance, Freud (1899/1911) assumed that the word house signified our body, while the word bath signified birth. By identifying these dream icons, Freud could determine the actual problem in his patients' lives. Thus, Freud believed that dreams served as a medium by which the unconscious psyche could make its needs known (1899/1911).

The psychoanalytic theory, in conditions of its justification for the function of dreams, has received much criticism from the emotional field. While Freud makes many intuitive statements based on the patients he treated, he provides no real empirical data to support his statements.

In fact, much of Freud's early on work in neuro-scientific psychoanalysis has been discredited anticipated to insufficient scientific data. In his 1996 e book, Why Freud was Wrong: Sin, Science, and Psychoanalysis, Richard Webster examines Freud's childhood, relating Freud's deep religious history to the defective science of Freud's old age. He says that Freud developed his theories relating to divine dreams from his child years, and lacks any concrete data to aid his psychoanalytic ideas (Webster, 1996). Although Freud makes an interesting argument regarding the function of dreams, his theory lacks empirical data and thus should not be considered as the principal explanation behind the reason of dreams.

Psychobiological theory

In compare to Freud's psychoanalytic theory, the psychobiological theory for why dreams appear is founded upon modern, empirical information. Rather than looking solely at the patterns of subjects, such as the psychoanalytic procedure, the psychobiological methodology seeks to empirically connect the biological and physiological components associated with dreams to clarify their function. Through these empirical studies, researchers have discovered specific regions of the mind that get excited about dreaming. Allan Hobson, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical Institution, has conducted intensive research pertaining to sleep and dreams in order to better understand the role of dreams. In his 2000 article 'Dreaming and the brain, ' Hobson empirically demonstrates there's a distinct difference between REM sleep and the waking point out. Hobson and acquaintances (2000) employed neuroimaging to check out the physiological variations that take place between REM sleep and waking. This type of experimentation is novel and important since it provides a more advanced look at the brain's involvement during sleep, fantasizing, and waking. For example, PET studies show that during REM sleep, there is a 'preferential activation of limbic and paralimbic regions of the forebrain' (Hobson, 2000, p. 808); this finding has substituted the more aged theory that a generalized activation of the forebrain occurs when folks are sleeping and fantasizing.

In the psychobiological theory, empirical studies are used to understand what is physiologically occurring when things are asleep versus when they are awake. However the psychobiological theory provides stable evidence as to the biological aspects involved with dreaming, it fails to adequately explain the psychological reasons for why dreams occur. It really is more scientifically accurate than the psychoanalytic theory, yet it generally does not provide sufficient reasoning regarding the public, physical, and mental health explanations why dreams exist, and so is not an satisfactory theory to explain the function of dreams.

Cognitive theory

A third theory that explains the function of dreaming is the cognitive model. This model incorporates elements from the consolidation hypothesis that explains the function of sleep, as well as elements from both the psychoanalytic and psychobiological theory. In his publication, The STUDY of Dreams: Neural Sites, Cognitive Development, and Content Evaluation (2002), Dr. Domhoff outlines the various empirical methods with which dreams have been studied as scientific advances have been made in domains like neuroscience, psychology, and psycholinguistics. Actually, the field of psycholinguistics has greatly aided psychologists who are thinking about understanding dreams. David Foulkes of Emory College or university (1982) suggests that the cognitive way in which scientists have examined linguistics should be carried out when learning dreams. Apart from linguistics, Domhoff also sheds light on various observational studies which have been conducted with respect to dreams; he shows that dreams tend to be unchanging and repetitive, plus they often portray issues with that your dreamer is preoccupied (2002).

Domhoff's work is just one of many examples of the way the cognitive model endeavors to explore the function of dreams. It is a substance model that can incorporate new studies and information as technology and the technology used to study dreaming advance. Based mostly after observational studies, the cognitive model theorizes that dreams sift through unimportant, non-essential things and help the dreamer to give attention to more important matters, including new things that the individual has learned or conditions that the dreamer deems significant (Domhoff, 2002). The cognitive theory is supported by empirical research, like the psychobiological theory, however the cognitive model is also guaranteed by many authentic observational studies, including desire publications and other specific studies that are a lot more certifiable than Freud's aspiration analyses. The cognitive model thus appears to present an unbiased, thorough explanation as to the function of fantasizing, so that it is the most plausible of the three theories for the function of dreams.


Psychologists have made many advancements into the discovery of the function of rest and dreams. Through observational and empirical research, they have got found that sleeping is an important, necessary process in most animals. The need for dreams, however, is a far more debatable issue due to the lack of tangible, substantial evidence and only its advantages and overall functions. Analysts have suggested developmental, evolutionary, and even internal benefits to dreams, and three major theories have developed regarding the function and overall need for dreams.

The first theory to emerge, Freud's psychoanalytic theory, can take an observational approach to identifying the function that dreams provide. Freud theorized that dreams are the consequence of unfulfilled desires or needs in the subject's life. If the dreams are properly examined, he proposed, they can provide great insight into the subject's needs and be used to the subject's edge. This possible function for dreams poses many physical, mental, and social health implications; if dreams will be the medium by which the subconscious brain speak, then they could play a beneficial role in the subject's life and well-being. While Freud's psychoanalytic theory assists as a good starting place when considering dreams in terms of their function, it isn't a very realistic theory; there is no empirical evidence to support Freud's statements, and the majority of his analyses are strictly subjective, not objective.

The psychobiological theory targets the biological interactions associated with sleeping and dreams predicated on verifiable, empirical proof. In fact, the theory depends on experimental findings to verify the biological processes that are activated during sleep, especially during REM rest when dreams occur. While the theory is reinforced by many research tests, and scientists have discovered a considerable amount about the various biological and chemical correlates involved in dreaming, the theory does not provide a sufficient explanation regarding the most important function of dreams. Thus, the reasoning behind why dreaming occurs can't be explained only by the psychobiological theory.

Scientists are suffering from another theory as to the function and need for dreams, named the cognitive theory. This theory appears to blend the different parts of Freud's psychoanalytic theory, the psychobiological theory, and the consolidation hypothesis suggested by Jenkins and Dallenbach that details the function of rest. The cognitive model is partly based mostly after research that experts have conducted using advanced technology to identify the specific elements of the brain that are engaged while asleep and fantasizing. The cognitive theory goes one step beyond the psychobiological theory, however, by not only determining what is going on in the brain when individuals rest, but also by theorizing the reason why behind why dreams happen. Currently, experts for the cognitive model assume that dreams occur according to the consolidation hypothesis (Dallenbach, 1924); dreams are a means of reinforcing and remembering new information that is learned or information that the average person deems important (Domhoff, 2002). Also, scientists have compared the findings and innovations in psycholinguistics to the increasing field of the study of dreams and their associated techniques and functions.

Psychologists still have much to learn about dreams in the form of their functions and importance, and future experimentation in the field is needed in order to better characterize the role dreams play in the dreamer. Further research should be conducted on the physiological processes that take place during dreams, particularly through the REM stage of the rest cycle. Scientists should research the molecular aspects governing dreams, paying special attention to the cellular interactions that are necessary for dreams to build up. Moreover, experts should further identify and characterize any dreaming differences seen in subjects who have problems with sleep disorders like narcolepsy and insomnia instead of healthy individuals. These are just a few of the many research experiments that might be formulated to be able to better understand the function of dreams.

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