Dream Study Results Section -
Typical Dreams Questionnaire
Ever. When asked to select all dreams which the participants had ever had from the 55 TDQ theme options, all theme options were selected by at least five participants each. The most common dream selected was sexual experiences (87.1% of respondents), followed by being chased or pursued, but not physically injured (81.2%), falling (74.26%), school/teachers/studying (65.35%), and being on the verge of falling (64.4%). The five least common TDQ responses were: seeing extra-terrestrials (4.9%), someone having an abortion (5.9%), seeing a UFO (5.9%), being an object (e.g., tree or rock) (8.91%) and being an animal (11.9%). Ten of the TDQ choices were chosen by more than half of the participants, and an additional 24 TDQ themes were selected by a minimum of 25% of the participants. The remaining 21 TDQ theme choices were selected by less than one-quarter of the sample population. See Table 1 for full TDQ results.
Being the most common response, all 13 male participants selected sexual experiences from the TDQ; 84.61% selected chased…but not physically injured, 76.92% reported falling, and 69.23% of males reported trying again and again to do something from the TDQ choices. Being nude or inappropriately dressed was the fifth most frequent choice for males on the TDQ. Female participants agreed with males for the first three most frequent TDQ theme choices, followed by school, teachers, or studying and being on the verge of falling for the fourth and fifth most common choices. Despite the unequal sex distribution in the sample, TDQ responses between males and females were very similar, with a mean difference of 11.45% (SD = 7.12). The largest difference between TDQ responses was for failing an examination, with 67.0% female and 23.1% male endorsement. Seeing a person now alive as dead had 15.4% male and 48.9% female endorsement. Arriving too late was third in TDQ sex discrepancy (range = 28.3%), and each differing between sexes by 26.9%, having superior knowledge/mental ability and teeth falling out/losing teeth tied for the third largest discrepancy, the prior being favored by females and the latter by males.
Percentage of Total Participants Endorsing Ever Having Experienced Themes from the Typical Dreams Questionnaire.
Total Male Female
Item ____Percent Percent Percent
sexual experiences 87.1 100.0 85.2
being chased or pursued, but not physically injured 81.2 84.6 80.7
falling 74.3 76.9 73.9
school, teachers, studying 65.4 46.2 68.2
being on the verge of falling 64.4 46.2 67.0
trying again and again to do something 62.4 69.2 61.4
arriving too late, e.g., missing a train 55.5 30.8 59.1
being physically attacked (beaten, stabbed, raped, etc) 51.5 46.2 52.3
a person now dead as alive 50.5 38.5 52.3
being half awake and paralyzed in bed 50.5 46.2 51.1
flying or soaring through the air 48.5 53.8 47.7
vividly sensing, but not necessarily seeing or hearing, a presence in the room 47.5 53.8 46.6
your teeth falling out/losing your teeth 46.5 23.1 50.0
swimming 45.5 53.8 44.3
a person now alive as dead 44.6 15.4 48.9
being nude 44.6 61.5 42.0
being a child again 43.6 30.8 45.5
being frozen with fright 43.6 46.2 43.2
being killed 42.6 30.8 44.3
eating delicious foods 41.6 23.1 44.3
insects or spiders 40.6 46.2 39.8 seeing a face very close to you 40.6 38.5 40.9
being tied, unable to move 34.7 23.1 36.4
failing an examination 34.7 23.1 67.0
losing control of a vehicle 33.7 30.8 34.1
having magical powers (other than flying) 32.7 38.5 31.8
being smothered, unable to breathe 31.7 23.1 33.0
discovering a new room at home 31.7 46.2 29.5
seeing yourself as dead 29.7 23.1 30.7
finding money 28.7 15.4 30.7
being locked up 27.7 23.1 28.4
lunatics or insane people 27.7 30.8 27.3
being inappropriately dressed 26.7 38.5 25.0
killing someone 26.7 30.8 26.1
earthquakes 24.8 38.5 22.7
being unable to find, or embarrassed about using, a toilette 23.8 15.4 25.0
creatures, part animal, part human 23.8 38.5 21.6
snakes 23.8 15.4 25.0
floods or tidal waves 22.8 23.1 22.7
having superior knowledge or mental ability 22.8 46.2 19.3
fire 21.8 30.8 20.5
seeing yourself in a mirror 20.8 7.7 22.7
seeing a flying object crash (e.g., airplane) 19.8 15.4 20.5
traveling to another planet or visiting a different part of the universe 19.8 15.4 20.5
wild, violent beasts 19.8 23.1 19.3
encountering God in some form 18.8 23.1 18.2
seeing an angel 18.8 30.8 17.0
being at a movie 17.8 7.7 19.3
being a member of the opposite sex 16.8 7.7 18.2
tornadoes or strong winds 14.9 23.1 13.6
being an animal 11.9 23.1 10.2
being an object (e.g., tree or rock) 8.9 0.0 10.2
seeing a UFO 5.9 15.4 4.5
someone having an abortion 5.9 0.0 6.8
seeing extra-terrestrials 4.9 15.4 3.4
Note. Total N =101, males n = 13, female n = 88. The 55 TDQ themes were identical to those used by Nielsen, et al. (2003). A gap is included between quartile-ranking endorsements and numbers in bold are of particular interest and referred to in the main text.
Most often. Drawing from the full set of TDQ choices, the most frequently reported dream theme occurring most often in participants’ lives was falling, selected by 14 participants. The next five most often TDQ themes were: being chased or pursued, but not physically injured (11 participants), trying again and again to do something (9), sexual experiences (8), flying or soaring through the air and your teeth falling out/losing your teeth (both selected by 7 participants). An additional 11 most often TDQ dream themes were selected by two or more participants, 12 themes were selected by one participant only, and 26 themes were not selected by any participant for most often dream theme. See Figure 2 for all most often TDQ endorsements.
Of the 13 male participants, two selected each of the following TDQ themes as their most often dream: being chased or pursued, but not physically injured, being physically attacked (beaten, stabbed, raped, etc.), falling, and sexual experiences. Another five TDQ themes were selected by one male participant each. Female participants selected falling as the most often TDQ theme (12 participants), followed by chased or pursued, but not physically injured (9), trying again and again to do something (8), your teeth falling out/losing your teeth (7). Six female participants each selected flying or soaring through the air, school/teachers/studying, or sexual experiences as their most often TDQ theme. Three more TDQ themes were selected as most often dream theme by three female participants, five themes by two, and nine more each were chosen by one female.
Figure 2. TDQ Results for Most Often Themes Endorsed by Females, Males, and Total Participants. Total N = 101, female n = 88, male n = 13. Each participant could only endorse one theme from the 55 TDQ themes as their Most Often experienced dream theme.
Earliest. Four TDQ themes alone account for 52.47% of participant responses for “earliest” dream. The most frequent selections for “earliest” TDQ theme were “being chased or pursued, but not physically injured” (22 participants), “falling” (17), “flying or soaring through the air” (9), “your teeth falling out/losing your teeth” (5), and trying again and again to do something” (4). Five TDQ themes were chosen by three participants, seven themes by two, and 15 by one participant. In total, 32 TDQ themes were selected by participants for “earliest” dream. Males and females, as groups, both selected “being chased or pursued, but not physically injured” as the most common “earliest” TDQ theme, and “falling” as the second most common first dream. See Figure 3 for a graph showing all Earliest Themes sums.
Figure 3. TDQ Themes Endorsed as Earliest Dream Themes. Total N = 101, female n = 88, male n = 13. Each participant could only endorse one theme from the 55 TDQ themes as their Earliest experienced dream theme.
Age of earliest recalled dream. Participant options for reporting age of first dream consisted of nine categorical values along a non-continuous range, and therefore were not subject to averaging. Eighteen of the 101 participants selected 7-years as the age of their first dream, 17 selected 5, and 13 selected 10 through 15 years. Twelve participants each selected “16 or older”, 4, and 6 years. Ten participants chose 8 years, and “2-3” and 9 years were the least common selections for age of first dream, at five and two participants, respectively.
Ever told anyone. Of all participants, 62.38% reported they had “ever told anyone about [their] first dream.” Sixty-two percent of males reported having previously told someone about their first dream, and a nearly identical 63% of females reported the same.
Recurring. Fifty-five and one-half percent of participants reported that their first dream was recurring. Of the male participants, 53.85% said that their first recalled dream was recurring, as did 55.68% of females.
Dream and nightmare frequencies. In descending order of frequency, participant reports of “How many dreams of any kind do [they] recall in an average month” jumps from 16 participants at 3 dreams per months to 13 at 10 per month, 12 at two, 10 at five per month, nine at one and also at 15 per month, etc. Excluding two participants who reported “More than 30” dreams, there was a Mean 7.70 dreams per month (SD = 6.79) for the remaining 99 respondents. Males had a mean 6.31 dreams per month (SD = 5.17) and females (not including the two females who selected More than 30 per month) reported a mean 7.91 (SD = 7.00) dreams per month. The female and total sample population means would be somewhat higher if accounting for the two omitted responses of More than 30.
Eighty-two percent of participants reported having three or less nightmares per month, with 27 reporting one, 22 reporting zero, 20 saying three, and thirteen participants selecting two nightmares. Omitting the one female selector of “More than 30”, the Mean nightmares per month for all participants was 2.47 (SD = 3.00). Males reported a Mean 1.08 (SD = 1.38) and females had 2.68 (SD = 3.12) nightmares per month, excluding the one “More than 30” response.
Lucid dreams. Percentage of participants endorsing each of the six categories on lucid dream belief was as follows: I have done this once or a few times, and I believe that is about how often other people experience this = 36.63%; I think that this is fairly common = 20.79%; I believe that other people can do this but I never have = 15.84%; I think this is possible but extremely rare = 14.85%; I can occasionally do this, but I do not think that many other people can do this = 5.94%; I do not believe this is possible = 5.94%. Endorsements for done this once or a few times and fairly common were the most frequent choices for males (both at 30.8%), and for females the former was first (37.5%) and the latter second most popular (19.3%). No males selected do not believe, and females were least likely to choose this option. Mean age was youngest for I can, others cannot and then for do not believe this is possible, and was oldest for I have done this once or a few times.
Dream Reports: Threat Percentages and Theme Distributions
All dream types. All 101 participants contributed a total of 283 dreams. The sum for reported Most Important Dream (MID), Most Recent Dream (MRD), and Earliest Recalled Dream (ERD) reports were 97, 92, and 94 dreams, respectively. Mean dream length for all dream types was 63.48 words (SD = 79.54), the longest report was 751 words, the shortest was one word. For all dream types combined, mean number of words describing threat in ratio to all words was 57.0% (SD = 41.6). Male reports had a ratio of threat words to total dream length of 54.0% (SD = 47.9), and females threat/total M = 57.0% (SD = 41.6).
Because each main theme category (Aggression, Misfortune, Failure, Other Threat, and Non-Threat) was used to best-fit a maximum of one sub-category selection per dream report, all threat frequencies are conservative (e.g., when a single dream report was determined to have an instance of Misfortune, this should be understood as “at least one instance of Misfortune”). MID, MRD, and ERD total reports were not evenly supplied by all participants, therefor, theme percentages in relation to each dream type are used in place of frequencies, when numbers are presented. See Table 2 for the frequency distribution for all Threat and Non-Threat categories.
Theme Frequencies in Dream Reports
Themes Earliest Recalled Most Important Recent Total
Sex or dating or marriage 3 20 8 31
Fantasy 9 9 11 29
Non-threat other 9 6 4 19
Flying or falling or floating 10 8 0 18
Interacting with deceased 2 13 2 17
School 0 1 4 5
Being a different person 1 2 0 3
Seeing old friends 0 1 2 3
Party 0 0 1 1
Pregnant 0 1 0 1
Cannot move or open eyes 4 3 1 8
Cannot talk or scream or breathe 4 1 1 6
Cannot get something 1 0 4 5
Cannot stop aggressor 0 4 1 5
Late or out of time 0 0 5 5
Lost 5 0 0 5
Cannot save someone 2 2 0 4
Cannot find something 0 1 1 2
Cannot get to a thing or person 0 2 0 2
Cannot hear or be heard 1 0 1 2
Cannot find or get to toilet 1 0 0 1
Cannot find space or too crowded 0 0 1 1
Faulty phone or electronics 0 0 1 1
Stuck item 0 0 1 1
Unprepared 1 0 0 1
Falling 13 7 5 25
Loss of loved one(s) 3 13 3 19
Injury or illness 2 3 4 9
Separation from family 4 2 1 7
Teeth falling out 3 1 3 7
Car accident 0 3 1 4
Natural disaster 2 0 2 4
Pregnancy 0 2 2 4
Romantic break-up 0 1 2 3
Fire 0 1 1 2
Overwhelmed 0 0 1 1
Threat of falling 0 0 1 1
Attacked 10 16 3 29
Threat of aggression 9 1 3 13
Pursued by monster 4 4 3 11
Pursued by unknown 4 3 1 8
Pursued by human 3 0 3 6
Verbal hostility 0 0 4 4
Pursued by animal 3 0 1 4
Pursued by inanimate object 0 0 2 2
Damage to property 0 1 0 1
Pursued as outlaw 0 1 0 1
Threat – other
Indefinable or other* 7 6 6 19
Upset or embarrassed 1 5 4 10 Cheated on 0 4 2 6
Ridiculed or laughed at 0 3 1 4
Violated 0 2 1 3
Being naked in public 1 0 1 2
Uncharacteristic action 0 1 1 2 Accused of something 0 0 1 1
Disappointed 0 0 1 1
Feeling Used 0 0 1 1
Stolen from 0 0 1 1
Note. The above dream themes are drawn from Revonsuo and Valli’s (2000) Dream Threat Scale and Hall and Van de Castle’s ( 1966) dream coding scheme, with modification. The current theme codex includes fewer main categories than does its predecessors but more sub-categories per main headings. *”Indefinable or other” threats included those scenarios in dream reports which instill a feeling of dread, apprehension, or otherwise threatening theme yet do not easily lend to categorization.
At least one form of aggression was found in 27.9% of all dream reports. Being pursued was the most common form of aggression, usually perpetrated by a monster or something unknown. Being attacked was the second most common type of aggression, followed by threat of attack. Damage to property was the least frequent form of aggression
Misfortunes were found in 30.4% of all dream reports. Falling was the most common type of misfortune, followed by Loss of Loved One(s); these two sub-categories alone (plus one instance of Threat of Falling) accounted for 52.3% of all Misfortunes. Injuries and Teeth Falling Out accounted for an additional 18.6% of Misfortunes, and Separation from Family was responsible for 8.1 % of Misfortunes.
Failures occurred in 17.3% of dream reports. Inability to Move/Open Eyes was the most common type of Failure, followed by Inability to Talk/Scream/Breathe. In the Other Threat main category, an additional 50 threats were identified across 11 sub-types, with the most common grouping labeled as Indefinable or Other. Indefinable threats were difficult to place into any other category, and yet left the clear impression of eeriness or danger. The next most frequent Failure theme was being Upset or Embarrassed, followed by Cheated On (in a romantic relationship).
Non-Threats were sub-grouped into 10 categories, and the most commonly occurring of these themes was Sex/Dating/Marriage, followed in descending order by Non-Threat Other (again, too difficult to categorize otherwise), Flying/Falling/Floating, and Interacting with Deceased. Of note is the relatively low percentage of School themes, which were coded as occurring in only 3.9% of Non-Threat themes and 1.8% of all dream reports. These figures are artificially low because of the forced-nature of scoring sub-categories, but the actual occurrence of mentioning school or school-related activities in all reports is only slightly more frequent.
Threat targets and threat severity frequencies. The target of threatening scenarios was predominantly the dream-self, followed by the self with others. Mother was the third most frequent threat target in Earliest Recalled (ERD’s) and Most Important Dreams (MID’s). Threat to Property (without physical threat to self) was only coded for in one dream out of all 283 dream reports; the same for threat to Father and an Unknown (ambiguous).
Severity of threats was usually Severe, in that actualization of these threats in the waking environment could jeopardize reproductive chances (recall, the Threat Simulation Theory for the function of dreaming is an evolutionary-psychology theory and supposes that the threatening nature of many dreams was selected for during evolution to increase the odds of survival, long enough to reproduce). Minor threats occurred approximately half as often as severe threats, and death of the self or the target of threat was relatively uncommon. Male and female participants’ reports were very similar in relation to threat targets and severities. See Table 3 for a full tabulation of all threat targets and severity frequencies.
Threat Targets and Threat Severity Frequencies
Earliest Recalled Most Important Recent Total
Self 55 42 46 143
Self and others 7 11 12 30
Mother 4 5 1 10
Spouse or date 0 4 2 6
Sibling 0 3 1 4
Friend 0 2 1 3
Family – other 0 2 0 2
Grandparent 2 0 0 2
Inanimate or natural object 0 0 2 2
Not clear 1 0 1 2
Other (known) 0 0 2 2
Unclear 1 1 0 2
Father 1 0 0 1
Other (unknown) 1 0 0 1
Property (self’s) 0 1 0 1
Severe 55 37 29 121
Minor 12 19 32 63
Death 4 15 7 26
Note. Target and severity frequencies represent the most salient, or central, of these when more than one target or severity (judged by life-threatening or harm potential) was apparent per dream report.
Sex differences. The intent of this study was not explicitly to examine sex differences, and the ratio of female to male students obtained is likely a reflection of the disparity between sex representations in the SFSU undergraduate Psychology student body. There were 6.77 females for each male participant; therefore comparisons between the sexes in regards to theme frequencies/percentages are presented as suggestion to inform further studies, and not as major findings. The following theme differences between the sexes are for all three dream types combined (Earliest, Most Important, and Most Recent Dream reports).
Female reports contained more Pursuit Aggressions and male reports had an equal number of Pursuits and Attacks. For females, Threat of Attack was coded for in 14.8% of their reports, but for males this Aggression was coded for zero times. There were also four instances of Verbal Hostility in female reports and none in male reports.
Only three kinds of Failures were coded for in male reports, with an inability to Stop Aggressor being the predominant type, followed by inabilities to Talk and Move. Female reports had more inability to Talk Failures than any of the other 15 Failure sub-categories. Falling was the most common Misfortune for both sexes, and Fantasy and Sex/Dating themes were the most common Non-Threat categories for both sexes.