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Binding in Dreams - The Bizarreness of Dream Images and the Unity of Consciousness

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Binding can be described at three different levels: In neuroscience it refers to the integration of single-cell activities to form functional neural assemblies, especially in response to global stimulus properties; in cognitive science it refers to the integration of distributed modular input processing to form unified representations for memory and action, and in consciousness studies it refers to the unity of phenomenal consciousness (Revonsuo, 1999). To describe and explain the unity of consciousness, detailed phenomenological descriptions of binding at the phenomenal level and clarification of the underlying cognitive and neural mechanisms are required. The disunity of consciousness during dreaming is a fruitful avenue to study phenomenal binding and its mechanisms. The notion of the 'bizarreness' of dreams is closely related to the concept of 'binding': bizarreness can be reconceptualized as referring to different types of unusual combinations of features in the binding of dream images coherently together. The present study concentrates on the representation of human characters and the bizarreness found in these representations. We developed a rating scale that distinguishes different types of bizarreness on the basis of the unusual combinations of elements that are manifested in dream images. The data consisted of 592 dream reports in the home-based dream diaries of 52 students. The results indicate that about half of the human characters appearing in our dreams contain bizarre elements, and that certain types of bizarreness are more frequent than others. Phenomenal features intrinsic to the representation of a person (visual outlook, familiarity, semantic knowledge) are less frequently bizarre than is the external relation between the person and the context (for example, the place). Thus, binding the local features of a representation coherently together appears to be less prone to errors than binding several different information streams together into a coherent phenomenal model of the world.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Philosophy, University of Turku, FIN-20014, Turku, Finland. Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 July 2002

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