In my highschool introductory psychology class, I remember my teacher telling us that we dream in black and white, and that only after we wake up do we associate typical colors with objects in our dreams. When I asked how they could ever prove this theory, he said that they would wake people up in the middle of dreaming and ask them to describe the colors of objects that were in the dream. According to my teacher, the subjects would describe colors mostly in gray tones. I have the feeling that my teacher was full of it, so now I turn to you with the question: Do we dream in black and white or in color? And, how would we ever prove it one way or another?
Color (and also black and white at times). It is true that you sometimes cannot remember what color something in a dream was, but that’s not because it was in black and white. Dreams are fabricated by the mind, and you don’t have to “see” an object in a dream to know it’s there.
For instance, you might dream that there is someone chasing in a car. You might know that they’re wearing a suit and sunglasses, and have a large nose. Yet you might never actually “see” them in the dream. You just know. If the color of their suit is unimportant, your mind will not assign a color to it at all. That’s doesn’t mean that it’s in black and white, just that it has no color associated with it.
Anecdotal evidence: I have had dreams where the color of an object was important to the dream. In those cases, I “saw” the object in color.
Some people, it is said, dream exclusively in black and white. How or why this is, I don’t know. Neither do I know if this phenomenon is limited to people who have been exposed to black and white images via, photographs, TV, and movies.
Many, many times I have woken from a dream–and the dream was in color.
There was a theory in the 1940s that under normal conditions people only dreamed in black and white. This was evidently based on an insufficient sample of data. There was an episode of the classic radio series The Shadow in which Lamont Cranston deduces that a woman is being drugged because she can describe the colors in her nightmares.
There was also a theory that all the events anyone remembers from a dream were compressed in the instant before before waking. It is my understanding that both of these ideas have been largely rejected.
I myself remember one particularly gripping dream I had years ago which was in black and white only. It was one of those dreams which is purely a story of the unfamiliar, with characters and settings which have been invented, and in which one does not personally appear as a participant. In other words, it was like watching a movie–in this case, a really cool 1940s-style black and white horror movie, with beautiful cinematography.
[useless anecdote]I don’t believe this to be true because I sometimes dream about coloured things (like maybe not being able to decide what colour scarf to buy) and I used to have dreams that consisted of nothing but colours, smells, textures and sounds (this would usually be when I was ill).
Joe Random explanation seems pretty consistent and logical to me.
If you have lucid dreams, you find that things are indeed colored (and often very vividly so) in dreams.
I am an avid dream explorer, meaning I spend a lot of time and effort experimenting and investigating my nighttime adventures. My dreams are always in colour…I have had a b&w dream on occassion, but otherwise, my dreams are always in colour. I’m also an avid lucid dreamer, and when lucidity sets in, the colours in fact become far MORE vivid and intense.