Dreams mimic racial encounters in real life

Last Updated: Dec 18, 2011, 13:57 PM IST

Washington: Racial makeup of dreams tends to match up with the proportion of different races people run into in their daily lives, a new study has found.

According to Steve Hoekstra, a psychologist at Kansas University, a person’s own race matters as well.

“If you are, say, a black student at a predominately white school in a predominately white community, yes, you dream more about whites than do other black people in other communities,” LiveScience quoted Hoekstra as saying.

“But you also dream more about blacks than most people do in your same community,” he said.

The idea for the study quite literally came in a dream. Hoekstra’s wife, Anne, noted in a lucid dreaming moment that there was an Asian person in the dream she was having.

When she woke up, Anne, who is white, told her husband how odd it was that she didn’t dream about Asian people more often, especially because she has an adopted sister who was born in Korea.

“We got to wondering: The race of people in dreams, to what degree does it reflect reality?

“Are people even aware of the race of people in their dreams, and if so, does it map onto either the racial composition of places where they live or to their own family?” he added.

Hoekstra investigated the question with the help of a couple undergraduate research assistants and a few photocopies of a brief dream survey.

The researchers asked 66 students at the predominately white Kansas Wesleyan University to fill out the survey. Next, Hoekstra asked a colleague at the historically black Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina to have another 60 students at that school fill out the survey.

The students answered questions about the racial makeup of their waking life as well as their dreams. They were also asked how much television they watched, and which genre of shows, from comedy to sports to drama, they preferred. Mixed in were other questions about dreaming to obscure the purpose of the study and to prevent biased answers.

The researchers found that real-life race does matter in the dream world. Individuals reported that the largest proportion of people in their dreams were of their own race. The racial makeup of people’s dreams also tended to match the racial makeup of their daily lives.

Hoekstra said that the findings were true of both blacks and whites. Asian and Hispanic participants showed similar patterns, but there were too few of those races in the study to draw firm statistical conclusions.

ANI