The Creation of a Topographical World and Its Contents in the Dreams of the Congenitally Blind

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Abstract

The two constants in a dream are the presence of the dreamer, either as dream participant or observer, and the topographical world. The visual is the dominant perceptual mode, in the real world as in dreams. We wished to note if the same imperative of engagement with the topographical world still held in the dreams of the congenitally blind. Thus, in a cohort of totally congenitally blind subjects, we looked in quantitative fashion at dream settings, the population of such settings by people and objects, and the interaction between the dreamer, his or her characters, and the outside world. In all, 22 dreams were recorded. Auditory was the dominant perceptual mode (80%), followed by somaesthetic (32%), and taste (8%), with smell, pain, and temperature all rating 4%. There were physical settings in all except one dream. Statistical analysis demonstrated a significant excess of geographical content in the dreams of the blind (p < .0001), but no difference in those other aspects (characters, objects, activities) studied. These findings support the view that simply engaging with the world is a compelling feature of dreaming, independent of the psychological content of such engagement. This may be of ontogenetic significance.

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