Type of Media in Dreams and Associated Sentiment

Gackenbach, McDonnall, and Estrada (2018) reported that dreams collected from college students asking for media in the dream could be classified as active or passive media. That is a classic distinction in the communication studies literature between media that allows interaction and one where the consumer is simply a passive viewer. Active media includes video games, social media, and texting while passive media includes television, videos and movies. They found that self selected dreams that included active media were more pleasant than those that included passive media. In fact, nightmares were more associated with passive media in dreams for these college students. The present study is a follow-up on the Gackenbach et al report where a larger sample of dreams was available. David Olds (personal communication, Oct 18, 2015) provided the author with over a million dreams from the online dream social media website DreamCloud, with the permission of the website owner. After duplication’s were removed 992,022 dreams remained which were collected from late in 2006 through late in 2013. The first three years of the sample were fairly small, below one percent of the total dreams. After 2008 about 100 to 300 thousand dreams were collected each year. These were identified as including active media from gaming (i.e., video game, Xbox, PlayStation) and social media (i.e., Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter) or passive media (i.e., television, you tube, movies). The largest number of dreams from these media was from twitter. The 157,356 dreams from 2013 were entered into a preliminary sentiment analysis using NVivo plus. The most recent generation of textual analysis software allows analysis for emotional valence, sentiment, based on advances in artificial intelligence. The categories of dreams examined were active gaming, active social media, and passive media dreams. As is the case in most dream content analysis most the media dreams determined to be codable in terms of sentiment, across category these were coded as very or moderately negative but the vast majority of dreams were coded as neutral. About a quarter to a third of the dreams coded for sentiment were positive in each category with the fewest such classifications with gaming dreams. However, considerable refinement of the sentiment coding is needed as is coding of the other years of dreams collected. Additionally, other elements of media in dreams needs to be coded. While the sheer number of dreams is a strength of this study, they tend to be quite brief. Full analysis will be computed and reported upon for the conference.

Gackenbach, J.I., McDonnall, B. & Estrada, E. (2018, May). Individual differences in dreams and video game play. Paper presented at the Canadian Game Studies Meeting, Regina, Sask.

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2020 Update

It’s been about four years since I worked on this website. In the meantime I retired from MacEwan University as an Emeritus Professor in Psychology. That was July 1, 2018. In the following two years I did some writing up of research done in my last few years and some conference presentations. But to be frank such scholarly activity was low on my bucket list. I’m now more settled into retirement, although I still tutor part time at Athabasca University primarily in the Department of Communication Studies.

I thought it would be a good idea to update this web/blog site with unpublished research write-ups and conference presentations. Thus I just uploaded a three study series that was done during the last half dozen years of my tenure at MacEwan. I wrote these up with the various student research assistants after I had retired. While it was submitted for publication, the journal wanted it much shorter. I decided that it makes more sense to put it out in the public domain, via this website, at its full length and depth.

Over the next months I’ll be uploading a variety of work and then will turn to work that I’ve done over my 40+ years of academic involvement that is not easily accessible. I’ll update readers in this blog space as things get uploaded. I wanted to begin this update with this one very lengthy and time/effort consuming work and thank my marvelous students for their continued support and interest.

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2016 Conference Season Presentations

In watching six of my students present at the recent Canadian Game Studies meeting I was proud and amazed at the quality of their work. There was something about seeing it all lined up that really drove home to me how hard we have all worked on this research. Three topics were covered in this symposium, nightmare protection, gaming with the oculus rift and contemplative practice and gaming. The slides from a symposium entitled “Night Time Dreams and Video Game Play” which was presented at the Canadian Game Studies Meeting in early June of 2016 at the University of Calgary, are available on my website, on slideshare with links under the conference presentation tab here. The slides are from a symposium entitled “Night Time Dreams and Video Game Play” which was presented at the Canadian Game Studies Meeting in early June of 2016 at the University of Calgary. Three of these presentations were also presented at the International Association for the Study of Dreams meeting in late June of 2016 in the Netherlands. The presentations at IASD were by Dylan Wijeyaratnam, Akshya Boopalan and Elisa White, and Jayne Gackenbach and Craig Guthrie. The last was also presented at the 2016 meeting of a Science of Consciousness in Tucson, AZ in April of 2016. Here is a picture of the participants during the discussion period at the Canadian Game Studies meeting.

Discussion period after the presentation at the University of Calgary with all the student presenters. They are from left to right: Ann Sinyard, Elisa White, Akshya Boopalan, Craig Guthrie, Carson Flockhart, and Dylan Wijeyaratnam.

Discussion period after the presentation at the University of Calgary with all the student presenters. They are from left to right: Ann Sinyard, Elisa White, Akshya Boopalan, Craig Guthrie, Carson Flockhart, and Dylan Wijeyaratnam.

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Flockhart Featured in MacEwan News

A long time research assistant in the lab was recently featured on MacEwan’s website for his work with us. Here is his story:
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Student Presentation on You Tube

Ann Sinyard’s presentation on the Rift and dreams at MacEwan’s Student Research Showcase was video taped and is available here.

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Student commentary on gaming, dreams and meaning

I often talk about my research into gaming and dreams in all of my classes and from time to time I get a discussion post from a student that seems to really capture the essence of our research. This one from Chase Stubbs in my Psychology of Consciousness class is the most recent example. He writes;

I have been a gamer for almost as long as I can remember but I had no idea that the amount of time I spent playing video games would have an effect on my dreams. Even after we discussed the effects videogame play can have on dreams in class I didn’t think much on it, as I don’t usually remember much of my dreams. However, shortly after the discussion on videogame play and dreams I had a vivid dream that fit most of the characteristics of gamer’s dreams we had discussed in class.

To put the dream in context I had been watched the first Resident Evil movie the week before I had the dream, and had played a bit of Destiny that night. Both of those stimuli were strongly represented in my dream. As the dream began I was walking down a corridor, which was reminiscent of a part of a map in destiny, with a rifle in my hands and a few people around me.  I wasn’t seeing through my own eyes though I was above and behind the Me that was in the dream, the same as many third person shooters. In class we had discussed how the third person perspective is something more often seen in high level gamers.  As we emerged from the hall way we walked into a large room with several doors leading in.

When my group got to the middle of the room zombies started pouring out of the dark doorways at us, not unlike when enemies spawn from openings in Destiny. At this point in the dream I probably should have been pretty afraid, massive waves of creepy zombies coming at you kind of scary. But there was no fear. Just preparedness, like when you are waiting for an enemy wave to attack in a video game. So my group and I proceeded to gun down zombies to prevent them from getting to us. This carried on for a little while, oddly I never needed to reload. Then as the number of zombies dwindled and it looked like we would be free a new challenge emerged.

A couple of lickers, the gross monster in resident evil 1 that has the long tongue and is killed on the train out of the hive, appeared out of nowhere. These things scared the crap out of me in the movie version, so coming face to face with one should have been terrifying. But like when the zombies appeared I didn’t feel any fear. I remember thinking crap not these guys, like you would in a tough boss fight in a game. This sense of confidence and control in a dram situation that should be fear inducing, and counted as a nightmare to most, is common in people who play lots of video games. It is probably the sense of control that I was feeling at the time that prevented it from being a scary event. Had I not felt like I could deal with the monsters it would have turned the experience from one of accepting resignation, well these guys suck but if we have to kill them we have to kill them, to one of terror where I would be running in blind panic. The dream ended as I was trying to kill the lickers.

This is an interesting demonstration of how the stimuli I had experienced that week were represented in my dreams. And how, probably, as a result of my hobby, video games, a terrifying event was turned into an almost exhilarating one. Looking back on it this dream occurred in the middle of a slew of minor assignments and midterms, which I was largely prepared for. It is interesting to think of this particular dream as a metaphor for all of the challenges I was facing at the time. With the zombies representing all the lesser obstacles I had to overcome, minor assignments, and the lickers as the bigger ones like midterms and an essay. And the confidence I felt in dispatching the monsters being a metaphor for the confidence I felt in my performance on the assignments, essays, midterms I had finished. And the dream ending without me killing the lickers as a metaphor for the other monsters I hadn’t overcome yet, the midterms that were still to come. Sorry for rambling on a bit at the end but writing out the details and situating it in time really made that dream make a lot more sense.

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Gackenbach Presentation at Unsound Festival in Krakow, Poland

Gackenbach just before Unsound presentation in Krakow, Poland on Oct 12, 2014

Gackenbach just before Unsound presentation in Krakow, Poland on Oct 12, 2014

I am presenting a talk on our work on gaming and the nightmare protection hypothesis at a music festival, Unsound Festival, in Krakow, Poland on Oct. 12, 2014 (www.unsound.pl). I was invited by Goethe-Institut, a German cultural institute in Poland. The theme of the festival is dreams in all its forms thus the relevance of my work on video game play and dreams. The title of the talk is “Video Game Play as Nightmare Protection”. I am part of a series of talks. The slides/pdf can be found at www.spiritwatch.ca and the audio is on You Tube 

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Replaying Japan 2014 Paper Presentation

Our lab presented a version of our work comparing dreams and media use to the second annual International Japan Game Studies Conference at the University of Alberta in August 2014. Here is the Taiwan and Canada Self-Construal Video Game Play and Dreams presentation.

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Conference presentations 2014

My students and I have presented at two international conferences in 2014 and are planning a presentation at a third one in August. The first was at the Towards a Science of Consciousness in Tucson, AZ. This poster was a report of both social media use and video game play associations to dreams and can be found here: Gackenbach and Boyes 2014 Tucson Presentation.

In early June three of my students attended and presented with me and a colleague at the International Association for the Study of Dreams conference in Berkeley. These presentations were:

1. A poster with Carson Flockhart and Alison Ditner of early results from an experimental manipulation of the nightmare protection thesis (nightmare protection poster IASD June 2014).

2. A poster with Sarah Gahr of cultural differences within Canadian students examining video game play, social media use, self-construal, and dreams (culture media and dreams poster IASD 2014).

3. A presentation with Arielle Boyes examining nightmare protection and female gamers (Boyes and Gackenbach Nightmare Protection Hypothesis and Female Gamers).

4. A presentation with my Taiwanese colleague, Ming-Ni Lee, and students Sarah Gahr and Yue Yu comparing media use, self-construal, and dreams across Taiwan and Canada (The Relationship Between Self-Construal, Media Use and dreams)

Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D.

June 14, 2014


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Been a year!!

Time gets away from one and I see it’s been almost a year since I posted to this blog. So here is a quick recap of our labs activity in the last  year. We had papers and posters on our work at various professional conferences with some students presenting.

Several research projects are underway and some with funding from MacEwan University. We are currently collecting video game, social media, personality and dream information from three Chinese universities and at MacEwan. This is our first exploration of cross cultural differences but a related question is planned for a research project next year (Sarah Gahr). An honors thesis will examine questions about female gamers  and personality (Ally Ditner). The question of female high end gamers and the lack of nightmare protection was addressed in the thesis of Arielle Boyes which will be presented at the annual IASD conference. Another take on nightmare protection was done by Carson Flockhart with an experimental manipulation and we found some supporting results.

Two individual study students were involved in lab as well. Hanna Stark did a central image analysis of data comparing gamers to those who meditate and pray while Ann Sinyard is exploring the possiblity of Oculus Rift. We hope to run a study next year using the rift or at least asking developers about their experiences and their dreams.

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