This is a statistic that has been repeated over and over again, and while I have no doubts it’s actually true I’m confused as to how we actually know this?
I mean, my brain is smart enough to concoct these weird situations involving places I’ve never been and words I’ve never actually spoken, but it can’t make people up? How do scientists know that since there is no way that they can look into dreams?
How do they know that the random chick behind the counter in the store in my dream that I don’t recognize is the girl I saw at the food court in the mall, and not someone that my brain just made up?
First, it’s not a statistic, which has to be a number.
Is it a fact? I’ve never read that claim even once, so I wonder if it gets “repeated over and over”. If it does, I’ll bet that you only see it in places I don’t read, like those collections of nonsense that are glurged around as “facts you didn’t know.” You didn’t know them because somebody just made them up.
Find an actual scientist who says this in an actual published article and we can evaluate it better.
To me, all this is saying is that you don’t just dream things “out of the ether”. Everything in your dream visually has been seen in real life in SOME capacity. Your dreams do not create unique entities.
The first few pages of Google hits seem to be entirely things like “X Amazing Facts About Dreams,” or message boards like this one debunking the claim.
The question is, how would a scientist even go about testing such a claim? The only evidence that’s available is the subject’s own memory. If a subject doesn’t recognize someone in a dream, how would you establish that it’s a face that they have already seen before?
I think this at least is demonstrably false for most definitions of unique. If I dream of a purple dog with wheels instead of paws I can be reasonably confident I haven’t seen that before and my mind has combined familiar properties or attributes into a unique entity.
ETA: Actually, now I think about it, that’s a simple refutation of the claim in the OP. All we need is to find a person who dreamed of someone with, say, yellow irises before it was feasible to see them in films. That would show our imagination is capable of at least altering a face to generate a new face unlike one seen before. We’d then need some clear reason to suppose it could not do the same with, say, changing the shape of the nose.
I’ve no idea how anyone would know the claim to be true, but inasmuch as I personally have more memories than I can count of dreaming of people I do NOT know in real life, it seems to me kind of a stupid idea.
Speaking for myself, my dreams are mostly populated by fictional characters that I’ve created myself, who make one-time appearances and never come back. When I dream of known people, they are nearly from at least ten years in my past. It is extrememly rare for me to dream about a person I’ve met for the first time within the past ten years.
Last week I had a dream in which I visited the house of a couple. The husband was a midget who only had one ear. The “ear” on one side of his head was covered in scar tissue and it appeared that he was in a Niki Lauda type fire. He wore glasses and they were tilted a bit because, well only one ear.
I most definitely have never met a bespectacled midget with one ear before.
I was daft enough to google something along the lines of ‘people only dream about people they have met’ and it turns out that yes, this is apparently a common idea (I’d never heard of it either).
However, about half of the search results for the above were pages where someone was challenging or refuting the idea.
Build a sophisticated and comprehensive AI machine. (See this thread.) Test and debug it until we are reasonably certain that it is an accurate and bug-free simulation of a human mind.
Would a sufficiently complete brain simulation have dreams? If so, we could monitor them. If we are fairly confident that the simulation is a valid human brain simulation, we might infer that its dreams must resemble human dreams too.