Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Gender Differences in a Content Analysis Study of 608 Dream Reports from Research Participants in the United States

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Gender Differences in a Content Analysis Study of 608 Dream Reports from Research Participants in the United States

Article excerpt

This investigation asked the question: "Are there significant content differences between male and female dream reports obtained in the United States?" Most of the 608 research participants provided dream reports (one per person) in response to a request from the senior author at dream seminars he gave between 1990 and 1996; the other dream reports were provided by friends and acquaintances of seminar participants. The total sample included 330 female and 278 male dream reports. Dreams were coded according to Hall-Van de Castle criteria on 53 categories, subcategories, and indices. The use of Cohen's h-statistic revealed several gender differences, most of which resembled those found by previous researchers.

Since ancient times, dreams have been the focus of attention by both societies and individuals. They have been considered a means to foretell future events, as a means to communicate with spirits and deities, and as a way to make crucial decisions. With the advent of Western psychology, dream reports have been used as a way to learn about human personality, human motivation, human development, and even as the "road" to the purported "unconscious."

Most investigators realize that the dreams with which they work are basically reconstructions (Domhoff, 1996); the actual dream as experienced can not be studied directly. What is disclosed about the dream may vary considerably, depending on how the dreamer recalls, forgets, embroiders, or reconstructs different portions of the report. In postmodern terms, serial reports of the same dream are "fluid texts" rather than "fixed texts." Hence, dreamwork of any type needs to be done with care, with attentiveness, and with humility (Krippner & Winkler, 1995). Nevertheless, if diligent care is taken, the use of dream reports as data can yield useful information for the social sciences.

In 1966, Hall and Van de Castle published The Content Analysis of Dreams, which outlines a thorough coding system with which they investigated 1,000 dreams collected from 200 undergraduates from Case Western Reserve University and Baldwin Wallace College in Cleveland, Ohio, between 1947 and 1952. Since that time, the Hall-Van de Castle system has been used to compare groups of various ages, cultural backgrounds, and diagnostic categories, as well as genders (e.g., Cote, Lortie-Lussier, Roy, & De Koninck, 1996; Kane, Mellen, Patten, & Samano, 1993; Krippner, Lenz, Barksdale, & Davidson, 1974; Krippner, Posner, Pomerance, Barksdale, & Fischer, 1974; Krippner, Winkler, Rochlen, & Yashar 1998; Lortie-Lussier, Schwab, & De Koninck, 1985; Rubinstein & Krippner, 1991; Soper, Rosenthal, & Milford, 1994). Reliability, by the method of common agreement, ranges from .60 to .90 for the various categories, a range suitable for most research studies; Van de Castle (1969) has addressed validity concerns. The system's utility has been evaluated favorably by Winget and Kramer (1979).

Associations between dream reports and dreamers' everyday activities and concerns have been demonstrated both for individuals (e.g., Winget, Kramer, & Whitman, 1972) and cultures (e.g., Gregor, 1981; Yamanaka, Morita, & Matsumoto, 1982). Dream reports have been used to identify cross-cultural differences (e.g., Domhoff, 1996; Heynick, 1993; Levine, 1966; Van de Castle, 1966). The manifest content of reported dreams has also been found to differentiate groups within cultures such as those reported in the cross-cultural literature (e.g., Patterson, 1996). In addition, gender differences have emerged whenever they have been investigated (e.g., Armitage, 1992; Hall & Van de Castle, 1966; Kramer, Kinney, & Scharf, 1983). The Hall-Van de Castle (1966) system is one of several content analysis instruments that have been developed to allow the investigation of associations between a dream report and the dreamer's environment or internalized worldview, but the other systems are seldom applied and provide less normative data (Domhoff, 1996). …

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