Skip to main content

Personal Problem-Solving Using Dream Incubation: Dreaming, Relaxation, or Waking Cognition?

Abstract

In Experiment 1, 96 frequent dreamers were randomly assigned to Control or Experimental conditions. All participants rated waking and dream moods over ten days and recorded their most vivid dream for each night. On the first and tenth day they rated the levels of distress and solvability of up to eight specific personal problems. After ten days they also rated degree of improvement and problem-solving effort for each nominated problem. All Experimental participants also cognitively reviewed one particular focal problem each day. Experimental participants were also randomly assigned to use either a dream incubation technique (Delaney, 1996) for this focal problem either just before sleep or just after morning wakening, or to use a simple relaxation technique either just before sleep or just after wakening. Night dream incubation participants were particularly likely to report reduced problem distress, greater problem solvability, and improvement in their focal problem. Daytime anxious and depressed moods of the night dream incubation participants decreased over ten days relative to Controls. In Experiment 2 participants predicted how they would have been affected by either night or morning incubation instructions used in Experiment 1. Results did not support an expectancy interpretation of Experiment 1.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Barrett, D. (1993). The “committee of sleep”: A study of dream incubation for problem-solving. Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, 3, 115-122.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Barrett, D. (2001). The committee of sleep. New York: Crown Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Blagrove, M. (1992). Dreams as a reflection of our waking concerns and abilities: A critique of the problem-solving paradigm in dream research. Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, 2, 205-220.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Blagrove, M. (1996). Problems with the cognitive psychological modeling of dreaming. Journal of Mind & Behavior, 17, 99-134.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Blagrove, M., & Akehurst, L. (2000). Personality and dream recall frequency: Further negative findings. Dreaming, 10, 139-148.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bulkeley, K. (2000). Transforming dreams. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Cartwright, R.D. (1974). Problem solving: Waking and dreaming. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 83, 451-455.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Cartwright, R., Young, M., Mercer, P., & Bears, M. (1998). Role of REM sleep and dream variables in the prediction of remission from depression. Psychiatry Research, 80, 249-255.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Delaney, G. (1996). Living your dreams. San Francisco: Harper Collins.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Dement, W.C. (1999). The promise of sleep. New York: Delacorte.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Domhoff, G.W. (1999). New directions in the study of dream content using the Hall and Van de Castle coding system. Dreaming, 9, 115-138.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Domhoff, G.W. (2003). The scientific study of dreams: Neural networks, cognitive development, and content analysis. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Flowers, L.K. (1997). The use of presleep instructions and dreams in psychomatic disorders. Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics, 64, 173-177.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Hartmann, E. (1998). Dreams and nightmares: The new theory on the origin and meaning of dreams. New York, Plenum.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Haynes, S. N., Nelson, K., & Blaine, D. D. (1999). Psychometric issues in assessment research. In P. C. Kendall, J. N. Butcher, and G. N. Holmbeck, Handbook of research methods in clinical psychology (pp. 125-154). New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Hill, C.E. (1996). Working with dreams in psychotherapy. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Houtz, J.C., & Frankel, A.D. (1992). Effects of incubation and imagery training on creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 5, 183-189.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Kirsch, I. (1997). Specifying nonspecifics: Psychological mechanisms of placebo effects. In A. Harrington (Ed.), The placebo effect: An interdisciplinary exploration (pp. 166-186). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Krippner, S. (1981). Access to hidden reserves of the unconscious through dreams in creative problem-solving. Journal of Creative Behavior, 15, 11-22.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Lehrer, P.M., Carr, R., Sargunaraj, D., & Woolfolk, R.L. (1993). Differential effects of stress management therapies on emotional and behavioral disorders. In P.M. Lehrer & R.L. Woolfolk (Eds.), Principles and practice of stress management (2 ed.) (pp. 539-570). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Lehrer, P.M., & Woolfolk, R.L. (1993). Specific effects of stress management techniques. In P.M. Lehrer & R.L. Woolfolk (Eds.), Principles and practice of stress management (2nd ed.) (pp. 481-520). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  22. McNamara, P. (2002). Counterfactual thought in dreams. Dreaming, 10, 237-246.

    Google Scholar 

  23. McNamara, P., Andresen, J., Arrowood, J., & Messer, G. (2002). Counterfactual cognitive operations in dreams. Dreaming, 12, 121-134.

    Google Scholar 

  24. McNair, D.M., Lorr, M., & Droppleman, L.F. (1992). Profile of mood states manual. San Diego: EDITS.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Markman, K. D., & McMullen, M. N. (2003). A reflection and evaluation model of comparative thinking. Personallity and Social Psychology Review, 3, 244-267.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Olson, J. M., Roese, N. J., & Zanna, M. P. (1996). Expectancies. In E. T. Higgins & A. W. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (pp. 211-238). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Reed, H. (1976). Dream incubation: A reconstruction of a ritual in contemporary form. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 16, 53-69.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Revonsuo, A. (2000). The reinterpretation of dreams: An evolutionary hypothesis of the function of dreaming. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 877-901.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Roese, N. J. (1994). The functional basis of counterfactual thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 805-818.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Roese, N. J. (1997). Counterfactual thinking. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 133-148.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Saredo, R., Baylor, G.W., Meier, B, & Strauch, I. (1997). Current concerns and REM-dreams: A laboratory study of dream incubation. Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, 7, 195-208.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Schatzman, M. (1984). Dreams and problem-solving. International Medicine, 4, 6-9.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Snyder, C.R., Michael, S.T., & Cheavens, J.S. (1999). Hope as a psychotherapeutic foundation of common factors, placebos, and expectancies. In M.A. Hubble, B.L. Duncan, & S.C. Miller (Eds.), The heart and soul of change: What works in therapy (pp. 179-200). Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Schredl, M., & Montasser, A. (1996). Dream recall: State or trait variable? Part I: Model, theories, methodology, and trait factors. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 16, 181-210.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Sommer, W., & Strapp, C. M. (2002). Dream recall frequency and dream detail as mediated by personality, behavior, and attitude. Dreaming, 12, 27-44.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Strauch, I., & Meier, B. (1992). In search of dreams: Results of experimental dream research. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Strunz, F. (1993). Preconscious mental activity and scientific problem-solving: A critique of the Kekule dream controversy. Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, 3, 281-294.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Van de Castle, R.L. (1994). Our dreaming mind. New York: Ballantine.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Zadra, A.L., O'Brien, S.S., & Donderi, D.C. (1998). Dream content, dream recurrence and well-being: A replication with a younger sample. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 17, 293-311.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gregory L. White.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

White, G.L., Taytroe, L. Personal Problem-Solving Using Dream Incubation: Dreaming, Relaxation, or Waking Cognition?. Dreaming 13, 193–209 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:DREM.0000003143.00133.1c

Download citation

  • Dream incubation
  • problem-solving