, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 211–235 | Cite as

The Typical Dreams of Canadian University Students

  • Tore A. Nielsen
  • Antonio L. Zadra
  • Valérie Simard
  • Sébastien Saucier
  • Philippe Stenstrom
  • Carlyle Smith
  • Don Kuiken


To investigate the dimensional structure of dreams, the Typical Dreams Questionnaire (TDQ) was administered to 1181 first-year University students in three Canadian cities. A profile of themes was found that varied little by age, gender or region; however, differences that were identified could be interpreted as due to developmental milestones, personality attributes or sociocultural factors. Factor analysis produced a solution consisting of 16 coherent factors that were differentially associated with demographic variables and that accounted for 51% of the variance. Women loaded primarily on negative factors (failure, loss of control, snakes-insects), men primarily on positive factors (magic-myth, alien life). Results support the concept of typical dream themes as consistent over time, region and gender and as reflecting the influence of fundamental dream dimensions that may be influenced by sociocultural, personality, cognitive or physiological factors.

dreaming typical dreams sex differences personality factors 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andresen, J. J. (1985). The motif of falling: falling and the loss of the mother. Psychoanalytic Review, 72, 403-419.Google Scholar
  2. Armor, D. J. (1974). Theta reliability and factor scaling. In H.L. Costner (Ed.), Sociological methodology (pp. 17-50). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  3. Bernstein, D. M., Belicki, K., & Gonzalez, D. (1995). The development and assessment of the reliability and validity of a dream content questionnaire (DCQ). Sleep Research, 24, 138.Google Scholar
  4. Brink, T., Brink, G. S., & Hunter, K. (1977). Flying dreams: Four empirical studies of manifest dream content. International Journal of Symbology, 8, 73-76.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, D. B. (1979). Sleep & dreaming: Origins, nature & functions. New York: Pergamon.Google Scholar
  6. Darlington, H. S. (1942). The tooth losing dream. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29, 71-79.Google Scholar
  7. Domhoff, G. W. (1996). Finding meaning in dreams. A quantitative approach. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  8. Feldman, S. (1955). The symbolism of teeth in dreams. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 36, 145-161.Google Scholar
  9. Firestone, M. (1985). The “Old Hag”: Sleep paralysis in Newfoundland. Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology, 8, 47-66.Google Scholar
  10. Freud, S. (1955). The interpretation of dreams. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  11. Fukuda, K., Miyasita, A., Inugami, M., & Ishihara, K. (1987). High prevalence of isolated sleep paralysis: Kanashibari phenomenon in Japan. Sleep, 10, 279-286.Google Scholar
  12. Fukuda, K., Ogilvie, R., & Takeuchi, T. (1998). The prevalence of sleep paralysis among Canadian and Japanese college students. Dreaming, 8, 59-66.Google Scholar
  13. Gahagan, L. (1936). Sex differences in recall of stereotyped dreams, sleep-talking, and sleep-walking. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 48, 227-236.Google Scholar
  14. Garfield, P. (2001). The universal dream key: The 12 most common dream themes around the world. New York: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  15. Germain, A., Nielsen, T. A., Zadra, A., & Montplaisir, J. (2000). The prevalence of typical dream themes challenges the specificity of the threat simulation theory. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 23, 940.Google Scholar
  16. Griffith, R. M. (1950). Typical dreams, a statistical study of personality correlates. PhD Dissertation, University of Kentucky.Google Scholar
  17. Griffith, R. M. (1951). Dreams of finding money. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 10, 521-530.Google Scholar
  18. Griffith, R. M., Miyagi, O., & Tago, A. (1958). The universality of typical dreams: Japanese vs Americans. American Anthropologist, 60, 1173-1179.Google Scholar
  19. Hall, C. & Van de Castle, R. I. (1966). The content analysis of dreams. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  20. Hall, C. S., Domhoff, G., Blick, K. A., & Weesner, K. E. (1982). The dreams of college men and women in 1950 and 1980: A comparison of dream contents and sex differences. Sleep, 5, 188-194.Google Scholar
  21. Hall, C. S. & Nordby, V. J. (1972). The individual and his dreams. Winnipeg, Canada: New American Library.Google Scholar
  22. Hartmann, E. (1998). Dreams and nightmares: The origin and meaning of dreams. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  23. Hufford, D. J. (1982). The terror that comes in the night: An experience-centered study of supernatural assault traditions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  24. Hunt, H. T. (1989). The multiplicity of dreams. In Memory, imagination and consciousness. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kafka, E. (1979). On examination dreams. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 48, 426-447.Google Scholar
  26. Kuiken, D. L., Nielsen, T. A., Thomas, S., & McTaggart, D. (1983). Comparisons of the story structure of archetypal dreams, mundane dreams, and myths. Sleep Research, 12, 196.Google Scholar
  27. Liddon, S. C. (1967). Sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations. Their relationship to the nightmare. Archives of General Psychiatry, 17, 88-96.Google Scholar
  28. Lortie-Lussier, M. (1991). A new look at dreams of females [Fre]. Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, 16, 154-159.Google Scholar
  29. Lortie-Lussier, M., Simond, S., Rinfret, N., & De Koninck, J. (1992). Beyond sex differences: Family and occupational roles' impact on women's and men's dreams. Sex Roles, 26, 79-96.Google Scholar
  30. Myers, W. A. (1989). The traumatic element in the typical dream of feeling embarrassed at being naked. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37, 117-130.Google Scholar
  31. Nielsen, T. A., Laberge, L., Tremblay, R., Vitaro, F., & Montplaisir, J. (2000a). Development of disturbing dreams during adolescence and their relationship to anxiety symptoms. Sleep, 23, 727-736.Google Scholar
  32. Nielsen, T. A. & Zadra, A. (2000b). Dreaming disorders. In M. Kryger, N. Roth, & W. C. Dement (Eds.), Principles and practice of sleep medicine, 3rd Edition (pp. 753-772). Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co.Google Scholar
  33. Nielsen, T. A., Zadra, A. L., & Fukuda, K. (1999a). Changes in the typical dreams of Japanese students over 40 years. 16th International Conference of the ASD, Santa Cruz, CA, July 6–10.Google Scholar
  34. Nielsen, T. A., Zadra, A. L., Germain, A., & Montplaisir, J. (1998a). The 55 typical dreams questionnaire: assessment of 200 sleep patients. Sleep, 21(Suppl), 286.Google Scholar
  35. Nielsen, T. A., Zadra, A. L., Germain, A., & Montplaisir, J. (1998b). The 55 typical dreams questionnaire: assessment of 200 sleep patients. 12th Annual Conference of the Association of Professional Sleep Societies, New Orleans, June.Google Scholar
  36. Nielsen, T. A., Zadra, A. L., Germain, A., & Montplaisir, J. (1999b). The typical dreams of sleep patients: consistent profile with 284 new cases. Sleep, 22 (Suppl 1), S177-S178.Google Scholar
  37. Porte, H. S. & Hobson, J. A. (1996). Physical motion in dreams-one measure of three theories. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 329-335.Google Scholar
  38. Powell, R. A. & Nielsen, T. A. (1998). Was Anna O.'s black snake hallucination a sleep paralysis nightmare? Dreams, memories, and trauma. Psychiatry, 61, 239-241.Google Scholar
  39. Renik, O. (1981). Typical examination dreams, “superego dreams,” and traumatic dreams. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 50, 159-189.Google Scholar
  40. Revonsuo, A. (2000). The reinterpretation of dreams: An evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 23, 877-901.Google Scholar
  41. Salvio, M. A., Wood, J. M., Schwartz, J., & Eichling, P. S. (1992). Nightmare prevalence in the healthy elderly. Psychology and Aging, 7, 324-325.Google Scholar
  42. Saul, L. J. (1966). Embarrassment dreams of nakedness. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47, 552-558.Google Scholar
  43. Saul, L. J. & Curtis, G. C. (1967). Dream form and strength of impulse in dreams of falling and other dreams of descent. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48, 281-287.Google Scholar
  44. Schredl, M. (2000). Continuity between waking life and dreaming: are all waking activities reflected equally often in dreams? Perceptual & Motor Skills, 90, 844-846.Google Scholar
  45. Schredl, M., Ciric, P., & Götz, S. (2001). Typical dreams: stability and gender differences. Eighteenth Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams, Santa-Cruz, CA, July 10–15.Google Scholar
  46. Ward, C. H., Beck, A. T., & Rascoe, E. (1961). Typical dreams. Incidence among psychiatric patients. Archives of General Psychiatry, 5, 606-615.Google Scholar
  47. Winget, C. & Kramer, M. (1979). Dimensions of dreams. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida.Google Scholar
  48. Wood, J. M. & Bootzin, R. R. (1990). The prevalence of nightmares and their independence from anxiety. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 64-68.Google Scholar
  49. Zadra, A. & Donderi, D. C. (2000). Nightmares and bad dreams: Their prevalence and relationship to well-being. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 273-281.Google Scholar
  50. Zadra, A. L. & Nielsen, T. A. (1997). Typical dreams: a comparison of 1958 versus 1996 student samples. Sleep Research, 26, 280.Google Scholar
  51. Zadra, A. L. & Nielsen, T. A. (1999). The 55 typical dreams questionnaire: consistencies across student samples. Sleep, 22 (Suppl 1), S175.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for the Study of Dreams 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tore A. Nielsen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Antonio L. Zadra
    • 1
    • 3
  • Valérie Simard
    • 1
    • 3
  • Sébastien Saucier
    • 1
    • 3
  • Philippe Stenstrom
    • 1
    • 3
  • Carlyle Smith
    • 4
  • Don Kuiken
    • 5
  1. 1.Sleep Research CenterHôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversité de Montréal
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversité de Montréal
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyTrent UniversityPeterboroughOntario
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmonton

Personalised recommendations