Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Culturally Speaking

As mentioned, culturally, this belief is kept alive. In the Chinese culture,as shown in this video, are sure to pay attention to their dreams. Also, from experience, the Mexican culture relies heavily on listening to the messages portrayed in dreams. For instance, my grandmother used to tell us that we would be "saved" from these dreams. As most cultures, mine is linked to religion from within the culture. As a Catholic, many lessons were based on Jesus' dreams. With not believing this myth entirely, I still hold true to my religious beliefs.

Another culture that holds dreams in high esteem is the Indian culture. A website devoted to Indian culture lists under beliefs and superstitions the interpretation of dreams. It is interesting to see how many different cultures share this belief!

However, short of being the son of God, there is no way to show that our dreams directly coincide with our own lives. This myth is too broad, but is still lively due in part to culture.

Now, Here's the Truth!

What do we say about this myth? We should correct the myth by saying: “Often, we see our dreams having coincidental occurrences with our dreams.” It is cool to think of how it would be if our dreams did as much as we wanted them to. We could potentially save the world following this myth. But, the statement that dreams have symbolic meaning in our lives is too broad. Humans can stamp a metaphor on to any event, saying that they stand for something else.

We need to realize the broadness of our dreams and what people tack symbols on to. Because of the listed biases and influences on us, we see how easy it would be to fall victim to this myth. Have researchers proved there are studies proving this theory? If there is, it is not open to the general public. We only see the personal cases where our friends, or ourselves for that matter, have seen what they want to see.

Miss Understood

When people think of symbolic dreams, they automatically think of stretching a symbol to fit their lives. For instance, if they dream of the color green, and the next day they are asked to cut the grass, their minds will automatically connect the two. The common misunderstanding is too broad. As intelligent human beings who fall victim to this myth, we (myself included) dream of something and it is automatically translatable to our waking life. We can take something very far out and twist and shape it to our beliefs, as discussed in the post regarding reasoning errors.

Because so many of our dreams have affiliation with everyday events, it is easy co correlate our dream topics to that of real life. We have to be careful to not fall victim to society’s suggestions. In popular culture, we are exposed to so many renforcers regarding the myth. There are hundreds of aforementioned dream interpreting documents on the Internet. These are enjoyable to read, but provide false information. The interpretations they include in their web pages are not collected from actual quotable sources. So, those, though fun, will not predict what can happen in our real lives.

My Own Dreams

About a week ago, I had a dream. I had to share this with you, followers. In the midst of attempting to bust the myth of symbolic meaning of dreams, I fell victim to the research I had done myself.

My dream consisted of a close friend of mine dying. This dream really scared me. I had no idea why I would have such a dream, so I reminded myself to not commit any reasoning errors. Soon after, this friend told me he was leaving Seattle University. The first thing that popped into my head was the dream. I realized this was all because of my dream and that it had symbolic meaning in my life.

After a good night's rest, I realized: this myth is easy to argue when you're not experiencing it. Obviously, when you are having dreams that make sense in your life, you begin to believe they are connected. I looked over the Gilovich book on reasoning errors. I realized that I was thinking with confirmation bias and post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Keep these in mind when you dream!

Pop Culture's Portrayal

We've all seen a movie or TV show where the main character has a silly dream that trickles into his or her real life. We see our favorite show’s character wake up from a dream and suddenly realize the course of action needing to be taken. Here’s a clip in the popular 90’s Will Smith show, The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire. In this episode, Will’s cousin, Carlton, is influenced by Will’s friends into acting like someone who he isn’t, and ends up getting in trouble with the law. When Will discovers that this is all a dream, he realizes how he needs to treat Carlton better.

We see examples such as these in everyday television and movies. In the movie “In Dreams”, Annette Bening plays a woman who dreams what crime a killer will commit next. She dreams of a little girl getting kidnapped and murdered. Soon after, her own daughter is kidnapped and murdered. Her dreams have meaning of what will happen. When watching these types of movies or television shows, we begin to wonder what it must be like to have these sorts of connections.

Popular culture has begun to fuel the myth into existence, as well as keep it alive.

The Trapping of the Mind

As humans, it is not our fault that we are tricked into thinking or believing something. The reason is called a “common reasoning error”. In a reasoning error, we believe something due to an inner factor in our psychology that pushes us to act in that manner. Here is a look at a few common reasoning errors that people fall victim to in our myth of symbolic dreams:

1) The first is called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when we have the inclination to search for information that confirms their bias. Basically, people will gather information that supports their established belief, and only that which supports them. They will ignore information that might challenge their belief. For example, when we get buy a new pair of jeans at a store, we then look for the same pair at other stores for a more expensive price. We are looking for that extra affirmation that we have done right. In this myth, we will see people looking for their dream topics avidly in their waking life.

2) Another reasoning error is self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-fulfilling prophecy is when someone alters their actions to fit their belief. They believe something and change the way the act in order to support themselves. For example, someone will say that they will do horrible in a boring class, and will not pay attention or be studious in that class. In our myth, this is like when someone will have a dream about making more money at a job, and start to work exceptionally harder to get a raise. The difference between self-fulfilling prophecy and confirmation bias is the action. In self-fulfilling prophecy, we act towards our belief, while in confirmation bias, we look for the world to act towards it.

3) Probably the most common reasoning error in our myth is called post hoc, ergo propter hoc. This is a Latin term for “after this, therefore because of this.” When something happens after our belief is instated, it was automatically because of our belief. For example, if you cut your hair one day, and the next day your significant other breaks up with you, we believe it is because of our haircut. We don’t look at the past relationship; just what has happened. The reason this reasoning error is so common in our myth is because dreams happen before the events that we link them to occur. Therefore, any event can be linked to our dreams!

These three common reasoning errors are the most relevant to our myth. There are plenty of others that people may run in to, such as availability heuristic, clustering illusion, false consensus effect, regression fallacy, and self-serving assessment. These errors are the foundation of the myth. Because people experience the above listed, our myth lives on.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

So...What Do People Mean?!

Let's start digging, readers. Let us first identify the the basic belief:
When I have a dream, the content will symbolically represent something in my life.

This sounds pretty good. I would like to believe that when I dream about winning the lottery, the next day it will come true! With websites such as Dream Moods and Dream Dictionary, we are given a basic list of symbols. There are countless websites besides these that will interpret or explain our dreams into what we need to look for in our real lives!

When people say, "My dreams have symbolic meaning", they mean to say that they see one or more themes in their dreams that they see in their real lives. There are so many popular media sources (as we will look into in later posts) that lead humans to believe this is true. This myth is very common to the public, but is a different kind of monster than other psychological myths. This one isn't talked about very often, and some may believe the myth without even realizing it!