Dement and Kleitman research (1957)


The research

The relation of eye movements during sleep to dream activity : an objective method for the study of dreams

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Dement and Kleitman aimed to provide a more detailed investigation of how the objective / physiological aspects of rapid eye movement relate to the subjective experience of dreaming.

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Hypothesis 1

There is a significant association between REM and reported dreaming.

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Hypothesis 2

There is a significant positive correlation between the length of time spent in REM sleep and the duration of dreaming.

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Hypothesis 3

There is a relationship between the pattern of eye movements and the reported content of the dream.

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Design : Laboratoty eperimentation and observation

Subjects: 9 adult participants (7male and  2 female) from the Chicago area of America.
Five of the participants were studied intensively and the other four were used to confirm the findings

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Each participant reported to lab just before usual bedtime for a polysomnography.
They were to told to avoid caffeine or alcohol during the day.
Electrodes attached to head and faces.
Participants slept individually in a quiet dark room.
EEG continuously recorded brain activity

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Procedure for Hypothesis 1

Participants were woken several times during the night by the researchers and they were asked to speak immediately into a tape recorder about their dreams.

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Procedure for Hypothesis 2

Participants were woken up after being in REM for either 5 or 15 minutes and were asked to state how long they had been dreaming for.

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Procedure for Hypothesis 3

Participants were woken up after one of four eye movement patterns occurred :

1. Vertical
2. Horizontal
3. Vertical and Horizontal
4. Little or no eye movement

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There was no contact between researchers and participants during dream recall:

1. woken by doorbell
2. spoke into tape recorder

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  • REM periods were clearly observed and distinguished from non-REM periods, in all participants.
  • It is most likely that REM sleep is the only time we dream.
  • There was a strong association between the patterns of rapid eye movements and the content of dream reports.
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Evaluation - Strengths

  • Ethical
  • Strong evidence that REM sleep is a dream sleep
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Evaluation - Weaknesses

  • Small sample - not representative
  • Low ecological validity
  • Possible ethnocentric bias (carried out only in US)
  • The study can not be generalised to children
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