David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (6):877-901 (2000)
Several theories claim that dreaming is a random by-product of REM sleep physiology and that it does not serve any natural function. Phenomenal dream content, however, is not as disorganized as such views imply. The form and content of dreams is not random but organized and selective: during dreaming, the brain constructs a complex model of the world in which certain types of elements, when compared to waking life, are underrepresented whereas others are over represented. Furthermore, dream content is consistently and powerfully modulated by certain types of waking experiences. On the basis of this evidence, I put forward the hypothesis that the biological function of dreaming is to simulate threatening events, and to rehearse threat perception and threat avoidance. To evaluate this hypothesis, we need to consider the original evolutionary context of dreaming and the possible traces it has left in the dream content of the present human population. In the ancestral environment human life was short and full of threats. Any behavioral advantage in dealing with highly dangerous events would have increased the probability of reproductive success. A dream-production mechanism that tends to select threatening waking events and simulate them over and over again in various combinations would have been valuable for the development and maintenance of threat-avoidance skills. Empirical evidence from normative dream content, children's dreams, recurrent dreams, nightmares, post traumatic dreams, and the dreams of hunter-gatherers indicates that our dream-production mechanisms are in fact specialized in the simulation of threatening events, and thus provides support to the threat simulation hypothesis of the function of dreaming. Key Words: dream content; dream function; evolution of consciousness; evolutionary psychology; fear; implicit learning; nightmares; rehearsal; REM; sleep; threat perception.
|Keywords||dream content dream function evolution of consciousness evolutionary psychology fear implicit learning nightmares rehearsal REM sleep threat perception|
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Thomas B. Ellis (2012). Growing Up Amid the Religion and Science Affair: A Perspective From Indology. Zygon 47 (3):589-607.
Sophie Desjardins & Antonio Zadra (2006). Is the Threat Simulation Theory Threatened by Recurrent Dreams? Consciousness and Cognition 15 (2):470-474.
Ursula Voss, Inka Tuin, Karin Schermelleh-Engel & Allan Hobson (2011). Waking and Dreaming: Related but Structurally Independent. Dream Reports of Congenitally Paraplegic and Deaf-Mute Persons. Consciousness and Cognition 20 (3):673-687.
Levente Móró, Valdas Noreika, Christian P. Müller & Gunter Schumann (2011). Sacramental and Spiritual Use of Hallucinogenic Drugs. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (6):319.
Katja Valli (2011). Dreaming in the Multilevel Framework. Consciousness and Cognition 20 (4):1084-1090.
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