Consciousness and Cognition – Do we dream in colour?

Having looked at the physical colours within our bodies (through the ‘Bodies’ exhibition) and those expressed through artists, like Elizabeth Jameson and Jason Snyder. I wanted to explore how/ if/ why we dream in colour.

Having read two recent studies (Schredl et al. 2008; Murzyn 2008) which simplified to a short summary amounted to, both researchers asked general questions about people’s dreams and also had people answer questions about their dreams in “dream diaries” immediately upon waking in the morning.

First, both studies confirm that college-age respondents these days rarely report black-and-white dreams, either when asked about their dreams in general or when completing dream diaries. Murzyn finds that older respondents (aged about 55-75 years) more commonly report black and white dreams, but even in this group, the rates of reported black and white dreams (22%) don’t approach the levels of 50 or 60 years ago.

Both Schredl and Murzyn find that people with better overall dream recall report more coloured and less black and white dreaming. Schredl also finds that people with better recall of colour in (waking) visual displays report more colour in dreams. On the face of it, this might suggest that reports of black and white dreams come from less credible reporters; but it could just be that the kind of people who dream in black and white are the kind of people who dream less often and less vividly and are less interested in color memory tasks; or black and white dreams may generally be less detailed.

From this research, I have concluded that the vast majority of people who report dreams report them in colour, I myself have always dreamt in colour (from what I can remember anyway!). So I would like to include the most vivid colours in my body of work based on the consciousness to reflect this.


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