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hominid's avatar

Is there something fundamentally different between recalling an experience and recalling a dream of an experience?

Asked by hominid (7347points) October 15th, 2014

Let’s take two scenarios.

a) You have a vivid dream that you took a trip to Paris by yourself and had an amazing time.

b) You take a trip to Paris by yourself and had an amazing time.

Is the mind’s replay of these events indistinguishable? Does it take the persistent “But the dream was not real” self-talk to keep (a) from being as meaningful as (b)?

As a matter of experience, our memories of the past are activities of the mind that are occurring in the present moment. If we had traveled alone, and therefore had no social/relationship ties to the story of the trip (b), it seems that recalling the trip may be indistinguishable from recalling experiences had in the dream (b), right?

Slow fluther day (month/year), so bear with me with this question. Hope it makes some sense. It might not though. Sorry.

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11 Answers

picante's avatar

I can’t speak to the science of this, but I suffer from having very vivid dreams, often of mundane activities, that I believe are actual events.

As a child, I had many exquisitely detailed dreams that created beliefs of events. It was only in adulthood that I began to question the foundation of those beliefs and came to realize they were merely dreams.

I still hold a fertile imagination and an active dreaming state as blessings, but it can be exhausting to try to distinguish reality from dreams sometimes.

To more directly answer your question, I find no fundamental difference between the recollection of real or dreamed events. Both spark the same range of emotions and physical responses for me.

Pachy's avatar

My opinion is… Absolutely there’s a difference. The conscious memory of an experience, though it may be faulty and skewed (as memories tend to be due to many factors regardless of how recent the event is) will always be closer to the reality of the event than any subconscious interpretation of it via a dream… and it follows a memory of that dream would be equally or even more distant from the reality of the event.

hominid's avatar

@Pachy: “The conscious memory of an experience, though it may be faulty and skewed (as memories tend to be due to many factors regardless of how recent the event is) will always be closer to the reality of the event than any subconscious interpretation of it via a dream.”

What do you mean by “closer to the reality of the event”? Note that I’m not making any claims about the mapping of our dream trip to Paris onto the reality of Paris. The dream may have included a trip to Paris’ downtown ski slope, which Paris obviously does not have. So, recalling the details of the dream (riding the chair lift, the quality of the snow, etc) could theoretically be a faithful to the dream as any recollection of an actual trip could be to the actual trip, right?

ucme's avatar

One is a recollection, the other a perception.

thorninmud's avatar

No, I don’t think there’s a fundamental difference. Experience gets filed into long-term memory as narrative, a transcription of the raw experience into story form (complete with associated sensory effects). If the context of the original experience was a dream, then the notation “I dreamed that….” usually gets appended to the narrative, so there’s no confusion between dreamed and waking experience in memory. But if for some reason that notation were to go astray from the narrative, and if there were no disconfirming evidence from one’s own experience or that of others, then I don’t see why that narrative wouldn’t carry the same credentials as any other narrative in one’s memory.

Strauss's avatar

@ucme One is a recollection, the other a perception.

I would say: One is a recollection, the other is a recollection of a perception.

ucme's avatar

@Yetanotheruser How very perceptive of you

Strauss's avatar

@ucme Thanks. I recall a dream I had the other night…Oh, never mind!

ucme's avatar

Total Recall

flutherother's avatar

There may be a difference but it isn’t fundamental.

Quotes:

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
Edgar Allan Poe

“Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?”
Lewis Carroll.

“Our life is not a dream – bur it should, and maybe will, become one.”
Novalis

“Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”
Chuang Chou

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