Dream Recall and Political Ideology: Results of a Demographic Survey

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1 Dream Recall and Political Ideology: Results of a Demograhic Survey Kelly Bulkeley The Graduate Theological Union This reort resents findings from a survey of 2992 demograhically diverse American adults who answered questions about dream recall and questions about their olitical views. Particiants who described themselves as liberal or rogressive (n 802) were comared to eole who described themselves as conservative or very conservative (n 1335). Previous studies have suggested that olitical liberals tend to have higher dream recall than olitical conservatives. The results of the resent survey rovide new evidence in suort of this hyothesis. On all 11 questions asked about different tyes of dream recall, eole on the left reorted higher frequencies than eole on the right. The same attern was found when the two grous were divided by gender: Liberal males reorted consistently higher dream recall than conservative males, as did liberal females comared to conservative females. These findings indicate that olitical ideology is at least one of the cultural factors influencing dream recall frequencies among American adults. Keywords: Dream recall, nightmares, olitical ideology, liberals, conservatives This brief reort resents the findings of a survey of 2992 demograhically diverse American adults who answered questions about their dream recall and questions about their olitical views. Cultural factors like olitical ideology are rarely emloyed as variables in quantitative dream research. Most researchers have understandably focused on sychological factors (e.g., Hall & Nordby, 1972; Schredl, 1999; Strauch & Meier, 1996; Hartmann, 1998; Revonsuo, 2000). Yet for many decades, anthroologists, ethnograhers, and historians have argued that dreaming exerience is thoroughly intertwined with cultural influences of language, morality, religion, and olitical ower structures (Eggan, 1952; Tedlock, 1987; Von Grunebaum & Callois, 1966; Levin, 2008; Sobel, 2000; Foucault, 1993; Shulman & Stroumsa, 1999; Edgar, 1995; Gregor, 2001; and Mageo, 2003). The resent reort offers a new means of testing this cultural claim by statistically analyzing a large collection of survey data to identify ossible connections between eole s olitical views and their frequencies of dream recall. Previous studies addressing this secific question in a contemorary American context This article was ublished Online First December 5, I thank Kurt Bollacker, Dominic Luscinci, Zogby Interactive, and the reviewer of a draft of this reort for their helful contributions. Corresondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kelly Bulkeley, 4636 Southwest Humhrey Court, Portland, OR Dreaming 2011 American Psychological Association 2012, Vol. 22, No. 1, /11/$12.00 DOI: /a

2 2 Bulkeley (Bulkeley, 2006, 2008) have suggested the hyothesis that olitical liberals tend to have higher dream recall than olitical conservatives. The findings reorted here rovide new evidence in suort of this hyothesis. METHOD Study results were taken from a Zogby Interactive survey of 2,992 American adults who answered a series of questions about their slee and dream atterns in May The articiants were randomly chosen from a anel of aroximately 500,000 eole available for online oinion research who were originally contacted by Zogby during a random-digit dialing telehone survey (resonse rate information was not available). An online anel of articiants is, by definition, skewed toward eole who are comuter-literate and likely to be more educated and affluent. 1 Public oinion researchers continue to debate the advantages and disadvantages of online surveys as comared with traditional telehone surveys. According to a March 2010 reort conducted by the American Association for Public Oinion Research, the key issue in assessing the scientific value of an online oll is whether articiants are recruited using a robability-based samling method. If not, the results cannot be considered statistically reresentative of a broader oulation. Zogby s method satisfies this requirement. PARTICIPANTS Particiants were asked the following question: How would you describe your olitical ideology? The six answer otions available were rogressive, liberal, moderate, libertarian, conservative, and very conservative. For my uroses in this reort, resonses from moderates (n 537) and libertarians (n 262) were set aside, focusing on a comarison of resonses from rogressives (n 382) and liberals (n 420) versus conservatives (n 879) and very conservatives (n 456). The two grous on each side of the olitical sectrum were then combined into two larger grous, labeled here as Liberals (n 802) and Conservatives (n 1335). Gender information was also gathered, and is included in the tables below. Particiants in each grou answered 11 questions about their dream recall. The Aendix resents the wording of these questions. The first three questions were drawn from (Schredl s (2007) research and the other eight are atterned after the Tyical Dreams Questionnaire used by Nielsen et al. (2003) in their study of the tyical dreams of Canadian University students. It can be argued that these tyical dream questions do not account for frequency or intensity. A yes resonse could mean that the dream has 1 Other unusual asects of this data set include a high roortion of males, older eole, conservatives, libertarians, 2008 election voters, eole with a college degree, and eole with a high annual income. However, the samle also includes large numbers of females, liberals, low-income eole, and so forth, enough to make legitimate statistical comarisons and to identify ossible atterns and correlations.

3 Dream Recall and Political Ideology 3 Table 1. Comaring Liberals and Conservatives on Questions of Dream Recall Liberal Political ideology Conservative Question Dream recall Almost every morning Several times a week About once a week Two or three times a month Less than once a month Never Not sure Often Rarely Nightmare recall Almost every morning Several times a week About once a week Two or three times a month Less than once a month Never Not sure Often Rarely Talking with others Almost every morning Several times a week About once a week Two or three times a month Less than once a month Never Not sure Often Rarely Just like waking life Yes No Not sure Chasing Yes No Not sure Visitation Yes No Not sure Sexual Yes No Not sure Falling Yes No Not sure Flying Yes No (table continues)

4 4 Bulkeley Table 1. Liberal (continued) Political ideology Conservative Question Not sure Awareness Yes No Not sure Control Yes No Not sure Liberal n 802. Conservative n haened only once in the erson s entire life or that it haens nightly. That concern is legitimate, and thus the results resented here should be regarded cautiously, as indicating the minimum occurrence of these tyes of dreams. Another concern is that these questions allow for confabulated memories influenced by social desirability. Peole may answer yes or no if they believe that answer is what a normal erson in their society should give, whether they have actually exerienced that kind of dream themselves. Such a ossibility should be taken seriously, although most forms of oinion research are limited in a similar way by the difficulty of verifying subjective self-reorts and eliminating external influences. The aroach I have taken has been to gather a large number of reorts from a demograhically diverse grou of eole and to analyze them in terms of clear and easily identified atterns in the data. This method assumes that such broad, emirically based atterns are honest and accurate reflections of eole s actual dream exeriences. All of the raw data, along with a comlete set of articiants resonses, are available at the website of the Slee and Dream Database (SDDb), a digital archive and search engine designed to facilitate scientific dream research (htt:// sleeanddreamdatabase.org). RESULTS Table 1 rovides the resonses of Liberals and Conservatives to the 11 questions about dream recall. Tables 2 and 3 comare the Liberal and Conservative resonses to the same questions in terms of gender grous. (The total counts for the four gender grous in Tables 2 and 3 add u to a smaller number than for the two grous in Table 1 because some articiants, 3 Liberals, 8 Conservatives, did not rovide answers to the gender question.) To calculate statistical significance, resonses to the first three questions were aggregated into two resonses: Often (Almost every morning, Several times a week, About once a week, Two or three times a month) and Rarely (Less than once a month, Never).

5 Dream Recall and Political Ideology 5 Table 2. Comaring Liberal and Conservative Males on Questions of Dream Recall Liberal male Conservative male Question Dream recall Almost every morning Several times a week About once a week Two or three times a month Less than once a month Never Not sure Often Rarely Nightmare recall Almost every morning Several times a week About once a week Two or three times a month Less than once a month Never Not sure Often Rarely Talking with others Almost every morning Several times a week About once a week Two or three times a month Less than once a month Never Not sure Often Rarely Just like waking life Yes No Not sure Chasing Yes No Not sure Visitation Yes No Not sure Sexual Yes No Not sure Falling Yes No Not sure Flying Yes No Not sure (table continues)

6 6 Bulkeley Table 2. Liberal male (continued) Conservative male Question Awareness Yes No Not sure Control Yes No Not sure Liberal male n 403; Conservative male n DISCUSSION Peole to the left of the American olitical sectrum resonded yes to questions about dream recall more frequently than eole on the right did, at statistically significant levels. When groued by gender, liberal males resonded yes to questions about dream recall more frequently than conservative males did, and the same held true for liberal females as comared to conservative females. Not all differences for the females were statistically significant, however. This resonse attern is consistent with the findings of earlier studies on dream content and olitical ideology in which liberals aeared as slightly worse sleeers and more exansive dreamers and conservatives aeared as slightly better sleeers and relatively minimal dreamers. As in revious studies, the results here indicate that the difference is not absolute. Some liberals reorted very low dream recall while some conservatives reorted very high dream recall. Nonetheless, a general trend emerges clearly from the data, a trend that ersists across genders. Observing a correlation is not the same as exlaining a causal relationshi. These results do not oint to any articular reason why there might be a connection between a erson s olitical views and his or her frequency of dream recall. The results do indicate that olitical ideology is at least one of the cultural factors influencing the atterns of eole s dream recall. Whatever other factors may be involved, eole s olitical views seem to have a tangible imact on their frequency of dream recall, inclining them to be more or less likely to reort various kinds of dream exeriences. CONCLUSION This study rovides new evidence to suort the hyothesis that olitical liberals tend to have higher dream recall than olitical conservatives. The results justify more attention to cultural influences, along with sychological and hysiological factors, in the study of dreaming. Anthroologists and historians have long argued that more research is needed on the cultural dynamics of dreaming. The resent study shows how the quantitative analysis of demograhic survey data may contribute to exanding the methodological range of emirical dream research.

7 Dream Recall and Political Ideology 7 Table 3. Comaring Liberal and Conservative Females on Questions of Dream Recall Conservative Liberal female female Dream recall Almost every morning Several times a week About once a week Two or three times a month Less than once a month Never Not sure Often Rarely Nightmare recall Almost every morning Several times a week About once a week Two or three times a month Less than once a month Never Not sure Often Rarely Talking with others Almost every morning Several times a week About once a week Two or three times a month Less than once a month Never Not sure Often Rarely Just like waking life Yes No Not sure Chasing Yes No Not sure Visitation Yes No Not sure Sexual Yes No Not sure Falling Yes No Not sure Flying Yes No Not sure (table continues)

8 8 Bulkeley Table 3. (continued) Conservative Liberal female female Awareness Yes No Not sure Control Yes No Not sure Liberal female n 396; Conservative female n REFERENCES Bulkeley, K. (2006). Slee and dream atterns of olitical liberals and conservatives. Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, 16(3), Bulkeley, K. (2008). American dreamers: What dreams tell us about the olitical sychology of conservatives, liberals, and everyone else. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Edgar, I. R. (1995). Dreamwork, anthroology and the caring rofessions. Aldershot, England: Avebury. Eggan, D. (1952). The manifest content of dreams: A challenge to social science. American Anthroologist, 54, Foucault, M. (1993). Dream, imagination and existence (F. Williams Trans.). In K. Hoeller (Ed.), Dream and existence: Michel Foucault and Ludwig Binswanger ( ). Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International. Gregor, T. (1981). A content analysis of Mehinaku dreams. Ethos, 9, Hall, C., & Nordby, V. (1972). The individual and his dreams. New York: New American Library. Hartmann, E. (1998). Dreams and nightmares: The new theory on the origin and meaning of dreams. New York, NY: Plenum Press. Levin, C. (2008). Dreaming the English Renaissance: Politics and desire in court and culture. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Mageo, J. M. (Ed.). (2003). Dreaming and the self: New ersectives on subjectivity, identity, and emotion. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Nielsen, T. A., Zadra, A. L., Simard, V., Saucier, S., Stenstrom, P., Smith, C., & Kuiken, D. (2003). The tyical dreams of Canadian university students. Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, 13(4), Revonsuo, A. (2000). The reinterretation of dreams: An evolutionary hyothesis of the function of dreaming. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23(6), Schredl, M. (1999). Dream recall: Research, clinical imlications, and future directions. Slee and Hynosis: An International Journal of Slee, Dream, and Hynosis, 1, Schredl, M. (2007). Dream recall: Models and emirical data. In D. Barrett & P. McNamara (Eds.), The new science of dreaming ( ). Westort, CT: Praeger. Shulman, D., & Stroumsa, D. (Eds.). (1999). Dream cultures: Exlorations in the comarative history of dreaming. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Sobel, M. (2000). Teach me dreams: The search for self in the revolutionary era. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Strauch, I., & Meier, B. (1996). In search of dreams: Results of exerimental dream research. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Tedlock, B. ( Ed.). (1987). Dreaming: Anthroological and sychological interretations. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Von Grunebaum, G. E., & Callois, R. (Eds.). (1966). The Dream and human societies. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

9 Dream Recall and Political Ideology 9 APPENDIX Questions About Different Tyes of Dream Recall 1. How often do you wake u remembering a dream? (Available answers: Almost every morning, Several times a week, About once a week, Two or three times a month, Less than once a month, Never, Not sure) 2. How often do you wake u remembering a nightmare or a very usetting dream? (Available answers: same as above) 3. How often do you talk with your family or friends about your dreams? (Available answers: same as above) Please tell us if you have exerienced any of the following in your dreams: (Available answers: Yes, No, Not sure) 4. Being in a situation exactly like your regular waking life 5. Being chased or attacked 6. A erson who is dead aearing alive 7. Sexual feelings or exeriences 8. Falling 9. Flying or floating in the air 10. Being aware you are dreaming 11. Being able to control a dream

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