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The nightmare protection hypothesis: an experimental inquiry

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threat simulation, nightmare protection, combat centric, dreams, video games

Abstract (summary)

Using the ideas generated in Revonsuo and Valli’s Threat Simulation model of the function of dreaming, previous research looked at how military personal’s dreams were associated with video game play. A nightmare protection effect was found and replicated using an undergraduate student population. Based on the previous findings, in this study an experimental manipulation was conducted where male participants engaged in one of three computer tasks, including gaming and search. All participants also viewed a frightening movie clip. Following the laboratory session respondents were asked to report a dream. The Threat Simulation method of coding dreams was used to assess threat in participant’s dreams. The major hypothesis was that playing a combat centric game would be more likely to result in behaviors in the dream which were less nightmarish after seeing the frightening movie clip, relative to playing a creative video game or doing a computer search task. The results support the thesis for high end male gamers playing combat centric video games close in time to being exposed to a frightening film clip. These young men are either not perceiving the same danger in their follow-up dream as threatening or that the content is not as scary as those without a recent experience of combat centric gaming.

Publication Information

Flockhart, C. & Gackenbach, J.I. (2017). The nightmare protection hypothesis: An experimental inquiry. International Journal of Dream Research, 10(1), 1-9. Retrieved from


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