Saturday, December 13, 2008

When I was 7 or 8, I learned that my father dreamt in black and white. I found it very upsetting. I always dreamt in color as bright as it is in waking life and it disturbed me to think that Dad's dream machine was faulty. I was sure he must have been brain damaged.

"You only dream in black and white?! WHY?!" I demanded. He thought about it for a moment and said, "Well, I didn't grow up with color TV like you did."

I didn't buy it.

"Yeah, but you had color when you were a kid!" I argued, convinced he was inventing answers in to cover up some serious personal flaw. What did TV have to do with dreaming, anyway, I reasoned.

So recently, I was reading the New York Times and look what I found. The old man was onto something!

December 2, 2008


The Claim: Some People Dream Only in Black and White

In an age of high-definition television and vivid cinematography, it might seem peculiar to think that anyone would experience colorless dreams.

For many people, the dream state can be the most turbulent, emotionally intense part of the day. Falling, flying, failing exams and being chased are among the most frequently reported themes when people are asked in studies to describe their dreams. And yet for a small segment of the population, drifting off at night means reverting to a world of monochromatic hues.

Childhood exposure to black-and-white television seems to be the common denominator. A study published this year, for example, found that people 25 and younger say they almost never dream in black and white. But people over 55 who grew up with little access to color television reported dreaming in black and white about a quarter of the time. Over all, 12 percent of people dream entirely in black and white.

Go back a half-century, and television’s impact on our closed-eye experiences becomes even clearer. In the 1940s, studies showed that three-quarters of Americans, including college students, reported “rarely” or “never” seeing any color in their dreams. Now, those numbers are reversed.


A small percentage of people dream in black and white.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

I'll be darned. The B&W TV excuse sounded silly to me, toom but it turns out he was right.