Friday, 13 April 2007

From "Dreaming and Consciousness: Testing the Threat Simulation Theory of the Function of Dreaming"

by Antti Revonsuo and Katja Valli.

Revonsuo (2000a) outlines several testable predictions derived from the threat simulation theory. The present study was designed to test some of them. We hypothesized that if the threat simulation hypothesis of dreaming is correct, then we should find that (1) the frequency of threatening events is relatively high even in the dreams of normal subjects and that (2) the content of threatening events should reflect the original function of this system as a threat simulator in human evolutionary history. Thus, we expected to find that (2.1.) the dream production system tends to simulate not only trivial mishaps encountered in our everyday life, but also extremely dangerous events that are likely to be especially critical for survival. That is, we should find that normal subjects encounter severe, life-threatening dangers in their dreams with a higher frequency than they would be expected to encounter in their real life. Furthermore, we assumed that (2.2.) the dreamed threats should predominantly threaten the Dream Self and people on whom the reproductive success of the dreamer is most dependent: close relatives and friends rather than people or physical resources only remotely related to the future success of the dreamer. We expected (2.3) the dreamed threats to be relatively realistic rather than overly bizarre fantasies or science fiction stories, and that (2.4.) the dream Self is likely to take at least some defensive action against the impending threats. If these predictions turn out to be correct, then the threat simulation hypothesis of the function of dreaming receives considerable support, but if they turn out to be false, then the theory either must be rejected or at least thoroughly modified.

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