questionsdo dream in black and white or color?


I can never remember my dreams. I only assume I dream because everyone says a person is incapable of not-dreaming...


It is all a dream, you are living in the Matrix.


I mostly dream in color as far as I can remember. I have really vivid dreams though. I usually remember them and am able to tell my wife in the morning. I mean I could write novels based on some of my dreams. They are usually very interactive and I'm able to have full-on conversations with people, usually past situations. The only bizarre thing that usually happens is that I'm able to fly, or at the very least jump really really far in my dreams.

Dreams are bizarre in their nature to begin with, and as far as I know not much is known of why we dream, or how it benefits us. I was able to participate in some sleep studies a while back and my dream cycle lasts 10 minutes longer than the average person, which may be why they're so vivid. Who knows!


I always dream in color and frankly cannot imagine anyone has dreams in black and white. It strikes me as highly improbable from a neurology standpoint. My dreams are so vivid, I have no idea that they are dreams until something improbable happens and I begin to analyze it. Somethimes I think: "Oh, this is just a stupid dream." Other times I think: "Cool, I'll try to direct the dream I'm having." Mostly, though I do not assume a "God" role and simply participate in whatever is happening, but it is always in living color.


@dergage: I don't remember my dreams either. I'm often aware that I had one but I can never remember any of the details. I think in my case it's my brain's self-defense mechanism. My perception of reality is already bizarre enough, I don't need my dreams making it any worse.

Plus, I'm rather colorblind. How would I know if I'm dreaming in color?


The only time I really know I dream in color is when color's played a part in the storyline or when I've made a mental note of an object being a certain color. Otherwise, I could be dreaming in black and white for all I know.

The thing that really puzzles me is why so many people seem to slow down when faced with a threat in their dreams- my running and punching is sometimes TOO stressful.


The lucid ones are always colorful...for as long as I can keep myself aware without physically waking up.

The non-lucid ones vary. The one's I remember range from very bright, to black and white. sharp to blurry. The only four that were black and white, and sharp as ever were four where I died, and the dream kept going.

The human mind blows me away.


@nortonsark: It is quite common for men to dream in black and white only. There are some people who never dream in color, and others for which it is unusual not to. I'd dig up all the research to show you, but this time of year, I'm mostly outside (I come inside for a drink of water, and to take a brief rest).

I participated (as a subject) in some sleep studies when I was 20 or so, since I need so little sleep (about four hours). One of the reasons men may be less likely to dream in color is the relative thinness of the corpus callosum (as compared to the female brain), and the rapid firing of various brain cells that occurs during REM sleep often takes place on just one side. It may be that the extra processing to call up the areas of the brain meant to process color is taken up instead in all that action.

Pity I donated all my neurobiology and brain theory books when I retired, you know? I regret it, now and then.


@dergage: Here's an interesting data point for you (since you say you don't remember dreaming).

If you take test subjects, and disturb them any time they have REM sleep, so as to prevent them from dreaming, within one to three days they will begin to hallucinate, and their brain will be in a state that replicates the state during REM, even though they're awake. Everyone dreams. Not everyone remembers them.


@shrdlu: I'm a guy (a REAL guy) and I have never had a black & white dream in my life. Yes I have read about studies where men are supposed to dream in B&W, but I simply don't believe them because it is totally counter to my experience. One can site all sorts of anatomical mumbo jumbo about gender differences but I fail to see how that translates into a difference in color experience. While my dreams are vivid, I have noted that while conscious I apparently have a reduced ability to see things in my "mind's eye" as compared to others. Most people can conjure up a picture in their head. I never experienced that capability until I was struggling in anatomy dissection exams in veterinary school. I could not conjure visual memories, then suddenly, midway through the course, I developed that type of recall, I believe others experience it more fully than I, but I went from "C" performance to "A" overnight. I recognize brains can work differently, but I still don't buy B&W dreams.


@nortonsark: I knew that you were male (just in case you thought I'd been careless), and want to point out that I did not say all, but I did say most. The mind is a complicated beast, as we know.

As an interesting counter example, dogs are not capable of seeing color (they don't have the receptors), and yet I had a dog that happily picked red tulips (or any other bright red flower, if he couldn't find a tulip). He would pick just one, and carry it around all day, happy as if he'd had the best present in the world. If he couldn't find red, he'd take orange. No orange? Yellow. No yellow? Purple. He never EVER touched a flower that was blue, and he had no interest in anything other than flowers. Tulips don't have much of a scent, and most of the other flowers he was attracted to also did not.

Could he see red? Perhaps he was just adept at recognizing particular gradients of grey. He was loco in other ways, but that one was the funniest.



@nortonsark: One of the things that has interested me of late is the misremembering that people do when they are discussing events to which they've been an "eyewitness" (a misnomer, it turns out). I'm sure that everyone has played the game where you look at a page, and then you see a different page, and you have to figure out what's missing, or changed. A similar one is that you are shown a page, given a few minutes to memorize it, and then you have to name all the items in the picture.

Okay, maybe those are not games everyone has played, but I've certainly seen an interesting and wide difference in what people remember, and whether or not they notice changes. (For the curious, they get used in certain tests for brain functions)

You are unusual in that you remember your dreams, and you remember them vividly. As we age, dreams become less vivid, and less memorable. After the age of (about) 35, the brain changes such that we "sort things out in our sleep" differently.



@nortonsark: Studies suggest that one of the purposes of dreaming is to help the brain transition short term memories into long term, and to help organize things in general. I've seen films of people who were kept from REM sleep (but adequately rested, otherwise), and it's astonishing to witness what goes on (they were volunteers, but I sure wouldn't have wanted to be one of them).

One of the things that made brain theory interesting to me when I was young was the sleep study I first participated in, where they found that I only slept four hours. I reported that I felt I spend most of it dreaming, and the EEG showed this to be correct. I entered deep sleep only briefly, and only in the last period before waking. Most others who participated in the study believed that they slept little, but actually had normal sleep patterns, and slept between 7 and 9 hours.

Bad me. I could talk about this for hours. Brains are my favorite. Brainzzzzz

{I miss @dealzombie.}


@nortonsark: you may not remember having had a B&W dream, but that's very different from never having had one. :)

@shrdlu: A few years back, someone did a study on color/B&W dreaming and found, essentially, that people (basically) confabulate dream reports when it comes to reporting color vs. black and white: they'll identify their dream as having been in B/W, but when asked if the main object of their dream was in color, they'll say yes. Both studies were done in 2008: here's the abstract for one; I can't remember who wrote the other paper!

BTW, dogs do see limited colors: yellow, blue, and grey, I believe (Neitz did this work at UCSB; I don't have citations handy); he used traditional learning experiments, but I still have a mental image of a dog in a little fMRI: poor thing!


I rarely remember my dreams, but the ones that I can recall are in color.


@shrdlu: I agree this is a fascinating topic, but despite all the scientific study, there is no explanation as to WHY we need to sleep, let alone dream. It seems a massive waste of time and evolutionarily dangerous in a world of saber toothed tigers - yet it seems every living thing sleeps. I am also convinced that like much of science, some of the "facts" are incorrect. I would put B&W dreams in that category (Yes, I'm being obstinate - it's part of my colorful nature). On the "fact" that dogs do not see color, that is not true. They have fewer cones and more rods in their eyes than humans, but they still see (diminished?) color. I had a dog (now deceased) that could select items based upon a requested color. Imagine how "colorful" a dog's sense of smell must be.


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