The Theories Behind Dreams
Politics and Activism

The Theories Behind Dreams

Scientists continue to carefully study the human brain in order to explain the reason for dreams.


Back in the times of the Romans and the Greeks, many scientists strongly believed that dreams held prophetic powers that could warn people of alarming future events. Since then, numerous theories regarding dreams have been proposed, yet even after years and years of research, scientists are still unable to prove the theories definitively.

Sigmund Freud was a neurologist who performed psychoanalytic studies and discussed his theories about dreams in his book, The Interpretation of Dreaming. In the late 19th century, he put forth a new theory, stating that dreams are "centred around the notion of repressed longing - the idea that dreaming allows us to sort through unresolved, repressed wishes," according to Scientific American. He describes dreams as a way for humans to fulfill long-desired wishes without sharing those with the world. Manifest and latent contents are the two main components to his theory, with manifest content being the images apparent in dreams and latent content being the secret psychological message behind them.

Today's exceptionally advanced technology allows scientists to examine theories introduced years before. In 1977, psychologists Robert McClarley and J. Allan Hobson introduced a new theory known as activation-synthesis. The theory suggests that brain impulses combine "memories, emotions, and sensations," according to Health Guidance, and puts them together, oftentimes illogically and randomly. These psychologists argue that dreams lack a legitimate purpose, or at least any purpose that can be adequately tested in an empirical form. Similarly to Freud, they believe that some dreams can be beneficial in our daily lives; however, most dreams we have are random with no real meaning.

Some scientists believe in the threat simulation theory, which states that dreams, or rather nightmares, began as an ancient defense mechanism from perceived threats around us. This ascribes dreams the purpose of defending ourselves from events or figures that we see as dangerous. Dreams were considered an evolutionary advantage due to their "capacity to repeatedly simulate threatening events," according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It supposedly creates more successful reproduction due to the fact that over time human genes will develop threat cues and avoidance.

The most promising theory that may explain why we dream is the cognitive theory studied by David Foulkes. According to Macalester College, this theory proposes that dreams merge knowledge already stored in our brains and form connections between them. Dreams resemble a puzzle, where scattered pieces of information bind together in a dream to form a clearer image that helps humans problem-solve. Ultimately, these scientists believe that dreams make us more conscious of our choices due to new knowledge collected from dreams.

Perhaps the purpose of dreams may require further scientific research and empirical evidence. Despite the uncertainty, scientists continue to study their purpose using the work of earlier psychoanalysts, such as Sigmund Freud, along with previously tested theories.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

This Survey Shows How Quarantine And Drinking Relate, And I Can't Say I'm Surprised

"5 o'clock somewhere" is more of a guideline now than ever.

As it stands, and my friends and I are finally 21. We're extremely excited to be able to go out to bars and "get lit" as the kids say, but due to the pandemic, all of our plans have been put on hold. We'd rather wait and go when it's safe than risk spreading the infection and hurting our loved ones. So, we've all been quarantining apart, getting on the occasional wine zoom call. This made me wonder if anyone else our age were doing the same thing.

Then, I discovered this survey: We Surveyed Millennials And Gen Z About Their Quarantine Drinking Habits — Cheers. Here are 3 things that I discovered through the survey results.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Feel A Lil' Better: Because Those Hormones Aren't Gonna Balance Themselves

Your weekly wellness boost from Odyssey.

No matter how good (or bad) you'd describe your health, one thing is for sure: a little boost is ALWAYS a good idea. Whether that's reading a new, motivating book, or listening to a song that speaks to your soul, there are plenty of resources to help your health thrive on any given day.

It's common knowledge that your hormones impact practically every aspect of your body. Weight gain, acne, mental health... it's all related to your hormonal health. If your life is treating your body like the superstar it is, your endocrine glands should produce the perfect amount of each hormone to keep you running like a well-oiled machine. This is a nice thought, sure. In our current society, even the most balanced person you know may be missing an important aspect of respecting their body. Things like sleep, stress, diet, exercise, and a busy pace of life can throw hormones off balance and negatively impact your general wellbeing. Sometimes these imbalances are noticed right away, while other times they can be smaller — annoying, but not as obvious.

Keep Reading... Show less

One of the biggest discomforts I initially had with the stay-at-home order was feeling trapped and isolated from what was going on outside the walls of my house. Add that to living in a massive city, where social distancing is nearly impossible when doing something as simple as walking down the street.

Keep Reading... Show less

There is no such thing as a defined beauty industry. For those who believe so, it's time to open your eyes and look around you. Chilling in LA, Beauty Beez has been marketing the beauty industry towards people of color. Not to mention, Beauty Beez is a Black-owned beauty store. They have their own beauty bar that provides threading, waxing, facials, and braiding!

With the client at the center of the experience, our diverse group of professional and knowledgeable beauty experts are able to effectively educate and assist, while you explore. - Beauty Beez

You bet their fabulous mission statement was created by a female entrepreneur. Her name is Brittney Ogike and she is a mompreneur with a career in sports management. Beauty Beez came to life through mere observation or the lack of.

Keep Reading... Show less

I've always been a picture hoarder. No matter what happens with someone or how many pictures I have of the same thing, I hate deleting pictures. They all serve as memories to me, which is something I think is super important.

Keep Reading... Show less

These Phoebe Buffay Outfits Prove She's A '90s Fashion Icon — We're Replicating EVERY Single One

In case you needed another reason to love our favorite coffee shop singer.


I've always been described as the Phoebe of my friend group — not just for being a vegan, animal-loving people pleaser, but also for the false sense of confidence in my singing and athleticism.

I consider it a compliment to be labeled a Phoebe. Besides her general warmth, I was always drawn to her hippy-chic vibes and passion for environmentalism before it was even cool to be vegan or to care about the planet. The way she carelessly ran through parks flailing her limbs without a care mimicked her effortlessly eccentric style.

Keep Reading... Show less

'Tis the season for wedding fun and if you're hosting or helping plan a bachelorette party for the bride-to-be, you're going to want it to be a blast. Whether it's a social distance soiree or a virtual party, games will always spice up the time with the gals, so if you're looking for a fun and easy one to get the party started (and everyone drunk), this game is for you.

What's the name of the game? "Drink If: Bachelorette Party Edition." Here's how it works.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Talked To My Friend About Her Cystic Fibrosis And Wow, CF Patients Are WARRIORS

Not many people can say they've had a double lung transplant.

Alissa Katz

Forty percent of the United States lives with a chronic disease. These diseases are unique in their own way, but one thing is the same — every individual who lives with a chronic condition faces obstacles because of their disease.

Not only do these illnesses require a lot of education for the individuals who have them, but for the community as a whole. The more we as a society know about these diseases, the more well-rounded (and ideally, helpful) we'll be. If anything, we'll have a greater appreciation for the strength individuals with chronic conditions show on a daily basis.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments