# How do the blind dream?

Lately, a friend of mine has been telling me that he's been having recurring dreams involving a certain rabbi, who died around a hundred years ago.
Since there's been some controversy surrounding the truth of several famous pictures of him (some say that the most famous images of him really show someone else), I wanted to ask my friend which picture he looked like.
Luckily, I stopped myself before I did -- this friend of mine is blind.

Therefore, I'd like to know what the blind experience when they dream -- do their dreams contain whatever types of experience they have in real life (ie, purely based on touch, hearing, smell, etc), or might they dream with vision? If they dream with vision, do they see color?
Is this impacted by whether the particular person in question had ever had sight (or partial sight) at any point in their life?

• Just a comment that I am sighted but most of my dreams lack any visual component - many lack any sensory components at all. Discounting dreams under the influence of various medication, it is exceptionally rare for me to have visual components in a dream. Nov 27 '14 at 9:37
• This Youtube Video might be relevant. In it, a person who is blind since birth describes what it is like to dream. Basically, he mostly hears different, sometimes unrelated things. He does not, however, see color - he does not know what color is. There are more videos like this on his channel (including a video about the concept of color), and I find them very interesting to watch. Nov 27 '14 at 10:32
• Those who born blind very probably don't have vision in dreams as well. But, well, of course they do dream. In my dreams usually all senses are involved. So, throwing out the vision there still are quite many senses. Sep 23 '18 at 12:36

You may want to read Meaidi et al (2014). They obtained dream reports from congenitally blind, late blind, and matched sighted controls. To quote the abstract, they found:

All blind participants had fewer visual dream impressions compared to sighted control participants. In late blind participants, duration of blindness was negatively correlated with duration, clarity, and color content of visual dream impressions. Congenitally blind participants reported more auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory dream components compared to sighted control participants. In contrast, late blind participants only reported more tactile dream impressions. Blind and sighted control participants did not differ with respect to emotional and thematic dream content. However, congenitally blind participants reported more aggressive interactions and more nightmares compared to the other two groups.

Our data show that blindness considerably alters the sensory composition of dreams and that onset and duration of blindness plays an important role. The increased occurrence of nightmares in congenitally blind participants may be related to a higher number of threatening experiences in daily life in this group.

In summarising previous research they note that:

previous studies seem to suggest that individuals who become blind after the age of 7 years retain visual imagery in their dreams, though congenitally blind or early blind (onset of blindness before the ages of 5–7 years) individuals do not.

They cite a number of previous studies that have looked at dreams of blind people that you may want to check out:

[5] Kerr NH. Dreaming, imagery and perception. In: Kryger MH, Roth T, Dement WC, editors. Principles and practice of sleep medicine. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company; 2000. p. 482–90.
[6] Amadeo J, Gomez E. Eye movements, attention, and dreaming in subjects with life-long blindness. Can Psychiatry Assoc J 1966;11:501–7.
[7] Berger R, Olley P, Oswald I. The EEG, eye movements, and dreams of the blind. Quart J Exp Psychol 1962;14:183–6.
[8] Kerr NH, Foulkes D, Schmidt M. The structure of laboratory dream reports in blind and sighted subjects. J Nerv Ment Dis 1982;170:286–94.
[9] Hurovitz CS, Dunn S, Domhoff GW, Fiss H. The dreams of blind men and women: a replication and extension of previous findings. Dreaming 1999;9:183–93.
[10] Kirtley D. The psychology of blindness. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall; 1975.
[11] von Schumann H. Träume der blinden. Basel: S. Karger Co.; 1959.
[12] Sabo KT, Kirtley DD. Emotions in the dreams of the blind. Int J Rehabil Res    1980;3:382–5.
[13] Cason H. The nightmare dream. Psychol Monogr 1935;46:1–51.
[14] Kirtley D, Cannistraci K. Dreams of the visually handicapped: toward a   normative approach. Am Found Blind Res Bull 1973;27:111–33.
[15] Spielberger CD, Gorsuch RL, Lushene PR, Vagg PR, Jacobs AG. Manual for the state-trait anxiety inventory (Form-Y). 2nd ed. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting    Psychologists Press, Inc.; 1983.


### References

Meaidi, A., Jennum, P., Ptito, M., & Kupers, R. (2014). The sensory construction of dreams and nightmare frequency in congenitally blind and late blind individuals. Sleep medicine, 15(5), 586-595. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2013.12.008