The underlying emotion and the dream relating dream imagery to the dreamer's underlying emotion can help elucidate the nature of dreaming

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2010:92:197-214. doi: 10.1016/S0074-7742(10)92010-2.


There is a widespread consensus that emotion is important in dreams, deriving from both biological and psychological studies. However, the emphasis on examining emotions explicitly mentioned in dreams is misplaced. The dream is basically made of imagery. The focus of our group has been on relating the dream imagery to the dreamer's underlying emotion. What is most important is the underlying emotion--the emotion of the dreamer, not the emotion in the dream. This chapter discusses many studies relating the dream-especially the central image of the dream--to the dreamer's underlying emotion. Focusing on the underlying emotion leads to a coherent and testable view of the nature of dreaming. It also helps to clarify some important puzzling features of the literature on dreams, such as why the clinical literature is different in so many ways from the experimental literature, especially the laboratory-based experimental literature. Based on central image intensity and the associated underlying emotion, we can identify a hierarchy of dreams, from the highest-intensity, "big dreams," to the lowest-intensity dreams from laboratory awakenings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dreams / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Symbolism*