Everybody dreams, and I'm trying to understand if there is a cause and effect relationship between ability to dream and recall dreams and creativity as an adult.

I would define the kind of creativity I'm talking about as creating art, designing products, inventing and making original stuff. These people are at the upper end of a bell curve of creativity or are outside the curve completely (extraordinary creative genius). This is in contrast to ordinary people who would be somewhere towards the middle of the creativity bell curve.

The kind of dreaming I'm talking about is long, clear or multi episode dreams lasting over 5 minutes as opposed to fragments and vague impressions of activity. Let's say 2+ dreams per night.

  • Do highly creative people dream more and recall more than average or analytical people?
  • Does active interest in dreams as a child or teenager(like keeping a dream journal) influences creativity as an adult?

I found some evidence to support that dreams and creativity are related, particularly in visual fields, like graphic design:

Barrett also interviewed modern artists and scientists about their use of their dreams, documenting dramatic anecdotes including Nobel Prizes and MacArthur 'genius grants' whose ideas originated in dreams.[6] Her research concludes that while anything—math, musical composition, business dilemmas—may get solved during dreaming, the two areas dreams are especially likely to help are 1) anything where vivid visualization contributes to the solution, whether in artistic design or invention of 3-D technological devices and 2) any problem where the solution lies in thinking outside the box—i.e. where the person is stuck because the conventional wisdom on how to approach the problem is wrong.

Another example from an overview of the modern theory of dream content:

Second, dreams cannot be the guardians of sleep if there are people who can sleep even though they do not dream, and we now have reason to believe there are such people, including young children (Foulkes, 1999), leucotomized schizophrenics (Jus et al., 1973), neurology patients suffering from parietal lobe injuries (Solms, 1997), and perhaps normal adults with weak visuospatial skills (Butler & Watson, 1985).

Another example comes from Nancy Andersen's book "the Creative Brain", in which she suggests that highly creative people, like Issac Newton, Albert Einstein, Virgina Wolf, etc may be capable of thinking in a very different ways from ordinary people. She suggests this may be due to increased or different communication between their centers of the brain responsible for combining information and sensory input. It appears to me that dreaming is very related to this kind of information assimilation.

Another example from Domhoff's neurocognitive theory of dreaming. Spatial construction is required for "traditional" creative venues, like painting, sculpture and architecture.

For example, the complete loss of dreaming in adults due to injuries to either inferior parietal lobe, when placed alongside the finding that increased dream reporting in young children correlates with visuospatial skills, suggests that the ability to dream in children depends in part upon the development of the neural network for spatial construction centered in the parietal lobes.

  • $\begingroup$ Creativity requires some intelligence and so does analytical thinking. I'm a very strictly analytical and sceptic person and yet I play guitar and love playing with colors. You're making unfair assumptions. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 9:03
  • $\begingroup$ Also everybody has a lot dreams per night. But you only remember those that took place minutes before you woke up. Or so I had read. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ How many dreams do you remember per night? My question is about people who are feeling strong enough about creativity to become artists, designers, inventors or otherwise "create" stuff. An analytical person would choose a profession more along the lines of working with numbers or data. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ You're probably thinking being an artist is something metaphysic while being an analytical person means you're a computer. I'd like to avoid a second comment thread today, could we chat about it instead please? I'd like to discuss this matter with you. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ This is an interesting question. However, there are some challenges in answering it. How does one measure variances in dreams? I can't think of any way to do this. Research based on verbal recollections of dreams the next day can never be accurate. A dream cannot be translated accurately to words. Besides, dreams are interwoven with personal feelings, memories, attitudes, etc. So you can't really tell anyone how creative your dreams are. You could possibly measure dreams by looking at brain scans showing activity in different brain regions, but I'm not sure how accurate it would be. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 13:16

1 Answer 1


There are some studies that seem to support your suggestion e.g.:

  • Dream reports and creative tendencies in students of the arts, sciences, and engineering (paywalled, so I'm quoting the abstract):

    105 students of arts, sciences, and engineering were asked to report a dream and to take a test which measures independence of judgment and relates to creativity. 4 predictions were stated: (a) (confirmed)—the proportion of dream recallers would be greatest among art students and least among engineering students; (b) (partially confirmed)—dream imaginativeness would be greatest among art students and least among engineering students; [...]

  • Creativity and Dream Recall (same as above):

    The literature on creativity and dream recall often found significant positive correlations between measures of creativity and dream recall frequency (DRF). The present study investigated the relation between creative interests and DRF in detail. The findings confirmed the results reported in the literature, according to which persons with visual and verbal creative skills recalled more dreams. It is suggested that the visual memory may serve as a mediator variable in the relation between creativity and DRF.

Yet dream recall is a complex topic. As you noted in your comment, it might be different for a single person from night to night. It also seems to be inlfuenced by a lot of factors. Schredl et al. name some of them in Factors of home dream recall: a structural equation model:

  • Personality measures
  • Creativity/fantasy
  • Visual memory
  • Sleep behavior
  • Stress measures

Yet there are still a lot of factors more to be included, like demographic factors, attitude towards dreams, medication and so on (Schredl has written a lot about dream recall, if you want to dig deeper).

So I'd summarize creativity might increase dream recall but it's only a small part of a bigger picture.


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