There are many theories about how and why we dream. Freud's theory is that dreams serve two functions: to "guard" dreams and to fulfill your inner most wishes. Freud believed that dreams come from within the unconscious, and distinguished the two parts of a dream, manifest content and latent content. The manifest content is the plot and story line of our dreams. Latent content is what the dream symbolizes, and is left to the dreamer to interpret its meaning.
Another theory is the Activation-synthesis theory. This theory says that while sleeping, the brain stem spontaneously sends neural discharges over the cerebral cortex. These bursts of energy leave impressions of sensation, memory, motivation, emotion and movement, and dreaming is the frontal lobe's attempt to make sense of it all.

In Your Own Words

  • Vivid visualizations
  • Spacing from reality in some cases, that combines wishes to make a sense of fulfillment in the dreamer.
  • Your mind thinks about things that may be un-likely to happen may happen.
  • Either completely made up or of something that you had seen, read, or heard about throughout the course of a day, week, month, or year that could or could not actually happen the following day or later in the future.
  • Visualizing past memories or thoughts.
  • A state that occurs during REM sleep.


  • If you dream about a plane crashing and hitting the ground, the manifest content would be what happened in your dream; the plane crashing to the ground. The latent content could be the interpretation of the plane symbolizing yourself and the crash would symbolize failure, not achieving something, maybe not getting a job promotion or not winning a competition.
  • The people in your dreams are not made up, they are real people that you have seen before in your lifetime.
  • You dream about your day to sort through all your memories of the day, and to store the most important ones.
    • Dreams about your day occur mainly in your first stage of REM, as the night goes on your dreams become more distant from what happened during the day. Your last dreams are the ones you typically remember and they usually are so far away from what happened during the day you don't make the connection.
  • You dream to filter out the "mental trash" accumulated during the day.
  • Death-related images appear more often in dreams of Mexican American college students than in those of Anglo-American college students; this most likely occurs because the death is more prominently a part of Mexican culture.
  • Not to be intermixed with sleepwalking, dreaming occurs during REM sleep when the brain is most active and the body is locked to prevent said person from wandering and hurting himself/herself.
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Anthropologists Malinowski and Segall decided to further the research done by Freud. They discovered that Freudian dream analysis was not fully correct according to research, but instead Freud had concludede his experiment by making assumptions off of a small sample group. The group was according to age, gender, and culture. Malinowski and Segall however took more interest in the culture relation to dreams and furthered research on that specific topic. They found that a particular Trobriand Islanders for their experiment would help compare their work to Freud's. The boys were to regular perform their sleeping rituals and then tell of their dreams. The ending result showed that the relationship with them dreaming of their fathers didn't necessarily relate to sexual jealousy, because their fathers were not the only make figures in their dreams. Therefore Freud's research fell under an example of confirmation bias.

Hickerson, H., Averkieva, J. P., Barnouw, V., Caudill, W., Driver, H., Dunning, R. W., ... & Wax, M. (1967). Some Implications of the Theory of the Particularity, or" Atomism," of Northern Algonkians [and Comments and Reply]. Current Anthropology, 313-343.

Dreams- Culture

A study was done in 1984 by Rosalind Cartwright, to test the difference of dreams between those going through a divorce and going through depression, those going through divorce without depression, and women who were not undergoing marital changes in their life between the ages of 30 and 55. It appeared that the women who were going through divorce and were not depressed had longer dreams and seemed to have more dreams about marital issues. The depressed group surprisingly, were having more positive dreams about themselves, a more positive mood in their dreams, and better dream quality. This experiment is a suggestion that people's thoughts/dreams adapt better when going through life changes.

Cartwright, R. D., Lloyd, S., Knight, S., & Trenholme, I. (1984). Broken dreams: A study of the effects of divorce and depression on dream content. Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes; Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes.