We look to dreams for premonition and insight. Do dreams foretell the future?
A unicorn impales you. Then your teeth fall out. What does it all mean? The urge to interpret dreams is hard to resist.
Carey Morewedge at Carnegie Mellon University and Michael Norton at Harvard found that people in the U.S., South Korea, and India all prefer the Freudian theory that dreams reveal buried emotions over theories that dreams sort new memories, solve problems, or simply reflect random brain activity.
Matthew Hutson is a freelance writer for Science. He covers artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cybersecurity, and the Internet of Things. He has a bachelor’s degree in cognitive neuroscience from Brown University and a master’s degree in science writing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his thesis explored AI and creativity. Matt has written for Wired, The Atlantic, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker online, and elsewhere. He is a former news editor for Psychology Today and is the author of The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking, about the psychology of superstition and religion. He lives in New York City.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
Furthermore, 68 percent of Boston commuters believe dreams foretell the future. They also said dreaming of a plane crash would make them anxious about flying—even more than would a warning from Homeland Security.
Even non-Freudians said they'd consider canceling a planned flight. In another survey, people said a dream about a friend defending them from harm would increase their glow of affection for that friend come daybreak. A dreamt betrayal wouldn't sully a friendship, though, suggesting that we invest more in agreeable dreams.
Why do we put so much faith in nighttime visions? In part because we treat thoughts insulated from obvious external influences as especially insightful. But sometimes a unicorn is just a unicorn. —Matthew Hutson
Guided by the Night
How do dreams alter PT editors' behavior?
"I have a recurring dream about a childhood friend. I developed the belief that he symbolizes my 'true self' and that it's a sign that I'm not being true to myself in waking life." —Carlin Flora
"After I have a recurring dream about a train bearing down on me, I always stand a few extra steps away from the subway platform edge when the train comes."—Jay Dixit