Pandemic Dreaming: an investigation of affective processing through Dream Transcripts and Self-Regulation during the COVID-19 pandemic

Campbell, Amonette
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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with a range of social, emotional and behavioural changes, which is arguably observable in dream content. Since dreaming can be understood as a form of affective processing, changes in dream content are not only expected in a time of unprecedented change but allow a unique opportunity to examine how waking affect, self-regulation and unconscious affective processing are associated. Consequently, this research aimed to explore the associations between these variables—through dream transcripts—during the unique conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, while further examining dream content differences. A quantitative, correlational research design was utilised and secondary data was used from an international survey study. Data analysis involved quantifying dream content through the Hall/Van de Castle method and drew on descriptive and inferential statistics for further analyses. Substantial changes were noted in the dream content, specifically in aggression and social interactions, with females reporting significantly more negative emotional dream content and males significantly more interactions with friends. Significant differences were also observed between the samples’ dream content (pandemic dreaming) and normative studies (non-pandemic dreaming), with key differences in dreamed social interactions, characters and emotion. Dream content and SSRQ scores were significantly associated for three content dream variables: imaginary and fictional characters, aggression and aggressive social interactions. Furthermore, anxiety scores were correlated with a range of content indicators including social interactions, dream characters and emotions. These results support the hypothesis that waking experiences reveal themselves within dreams and shows support for the relationship between emotional and self-regulation processes, and sleep experiences.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Social and Psychological Research to the Faculty of Humanities, School of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg,2022