Individual differences in visual memory, imagery style and media experience and their effect on the visual qualities of dreams

  • Ewa Murzyn

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The aim of this research thesis was to investigate whether there are any cognitive factors that might influence reported dream colour. This question was prompted by the existence of a period of time in the early 20th century when the majority of people reported having greyscale dreams, and coloured dreaming was treated as an anomaly. On the level of individual differences, age, visual imagery abilities and memory for colour were singled out as the potential contributors to reports of greyscale television and the changes in the methodology of research were preliminarily identified as the possible causes of the historical trends in the colour of dreams, and the first empirical studies in this thesis address these issues. Subsequent studies explored the role of visual imagery ability, and individual differences in cognitive representation and memory in determining the reporting of colour in dreams. Overall a total of seven studies are reported The range of methods employed in these studies was diverse and required the development of new measures of colour memory and visual imagery. Some studies employed diaries to gather dream data and allowed cross-sectional (e.g. age) or cross-cultural comparisons. Others were more laboratory-based and explored data concerning visual memory and imagery performance with diverse dependent measures (e.g. response time data). In addition these studies involved the development of a novel coding scheme for visual dream content. While it was impossible to decisively support or disprove the idea that greyscale dream reports reflect genuine dream experiences, the research carried out for this thesis provided many fascinating insights into the factors that determine how we dream and how we report our dreams, highlighting the role of our cognitive abilities and preferences. Moreover, the studies have uncovered novel ways in which visual imagery preferences shape how we remember and report our experiences. The implications of these findings are important not just for the methodology of dream research, but for the whole field of cognitive and applied psychology
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTrevor Harley (Supervisor)


    • Dreams
    • Dreaming
    • Mental imagery
    • Individual differences
    • Memory

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