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Testing the Empathy Theory of Dreaming: The Relationships Between Dream Sharing and Trait and State Empathy / Mark, Blagrove; Alex, Jones; Michelle, Carr
Frontiers in Psychology, Volume: 10, Start page: 1351
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In general, dreams are a novel but realistic simulation of waking social life, with amixture of characters, motivations, scenarios, and positive and negative emotions.We propose that the sharing of dreams has an empathic effect on the dreamer andon significant others who hear and engage with the tel...
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In general, dreams are a novel but realistic simulation of waking social life, with amixture of characters, motivations, scenarios, and positive and negative emotions.We propose that the sharing of dreams has an empathic effect on the dreamer andon significant others who hear and engage with the telling of the dream. Study 1 teststhree correlations that are predicted by the theory of dream sharing and empathy:that trait empathy will be correlated with frequency of telling dreams to others, withfrequency of listening to others’ dreams, and with trait attitude toward dreams (ATD)(for which higher scores indicate positive attitude). 160 participants completed onlinethe Toronto Empathy Questionnaire and the Mannheim Dream Questionnaire. Pearsonpartial correlations were conducted, with age and sex partialled out. Trait empathywas found to be significantly associated with the frequency of listening to the dreamsof others, frequency of telling one’s own dreams to others, and attitude towarddreams. Study 2 tests the effects of discussing dreams on state empathy, using anadapted version of the Shen (2010) state empathy scale, for 27 pairs of dream sharersand discussers. Dream discussion followed the stages of the Ullman (1996) dreamappreciation technique. State empathy of the dream discusser toward the dream sharerwas found to increase significantly as a result of the dream discussion, with a mediumeffect size, whereas the dream sharer had a small decrease in empathy toward thediscusser. A proposed mechanism for these associations and effects is taken fromthe robust findings in the literature that engagement with literary fiction can induceempathy toward others. We suggest that the dream acts as a piece of fiction thatcan be explored by the dreamer together with other people, and can thus induceempathy about the life circumstances of the dreamer. We discuss the speculation thatthe story-like characteristics of adult human dreams may have been selected for inhuman evolution, including in sexual selection, as part of the selection for emotionalintelligence, empathy, and social bonding.
dreaming, empathy, social simulation, dream sharing, human bonding, human evolution and behavior, human consciousness, consciousness