, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 103–110

We Do Not Dream of the 3 R's: Implications for the Nature of Dreaming Mentation

  • Ernest Hartmann


This report examines the extent to which dream recall involves the “3 R's” (reading, writing, and arithmetic). Two separate studies were done. In the first study, two scorers rated, on a blind basis, a total of 456 written dream reports, available from five previous studies. There was perfect agreement between the two scorers. They agreed that there were no instances of reading, no instances of writing, and one instance of probable calculating in the 456 dreams. The second study was a questionnaire survey. Complete responses were obtained from 240 frequent dreamers (who reported remembering a mean of seven dreams per week). The study examined in two ways the frequency of the 3 R's in their recalled dreams. First, in answer to direct questions as to how frequently they dreamt about each activity, roughly 90% of the respondents reported that they “never” or “hardly ever” dreamt about each of four activities: reading, writing, typing, and calculating. In answers to other questions, this group reported spending a mean of six hours per day engaged in these activities. Second, responses as to the relative prominence of six activities (walking, writing, talking with friends, reading, sexual activity, typing) in dreaming versus waking produced two clear groupings of activities. “Walking,” “talking with friends,” and “sexual activity” were each rated almost as prominent in dreaming as in waking whereas the second group consisting of “writing,” “reading,” and “typing” were rated as far more prominent in waking than in dreaming. The two activity groups differed at p < .0001. Thus, the 3 R's appear to occur very infrequently in dreams. These findings are placed in a theoretical frame which suggests that dreaming (compared to waking) deals very little with serial activities characterized by “input—rapid-processing—output” in which the neural nets function in a feed-forward mode. Rather, dreaming may be characterized by relatively broad or loose connection making in which the nets function more in an autoassociative mode.

dreaming 3 R's reading writing arithmetic connectionist nets 


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Copyright information

© Association for the Study of Dreams 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernest Hartmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Tufts University School of Medicine; Sleep Disorders CenterNewton-Wellesley HospitalNewton

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