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Holt, R.R. (2004). The Scientific Study of Dreams: Neural Networks, Cognitive Development, and Content Analysis. G. William Domhoff. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 2003. Pp. ix + 209. $49.95.. Am. Imago, 61(3):404-410.

(2004). American Imago, 61(3):404-410

The Scientific Study of Dreams: Neural Networks, Cognitive Development, and Content Analysis. G. William Domhoff. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 2003. Pp. ix + 209. $49.95.

Review by:
Robert R. Holt

William Domhoff, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, since 1965, has devoted much of his career to research on dreams and dreaming, about which this is his third book. Its title heralds the author's declared intent to make an objective science of dreams and to develop a comprehensive theory of the dreaming process, one that will also explain the manifest dream-always his major focus. Without his actually saying so, it becomes evident to the reader that to attain his end, Domhoff is quite willing to turn his back on many of the aspects of dreams that have made them traditionally an alluring but elusive subject: their tantalizing mystery, portentousness, and evanescence.

The subtitle may give a mistaken impression about the book's contents. The three topics are listed in little relation to the amount of space given to them: only about ten pages are devoted to “neural networks” and the biology of dreaming, another seven to cognitive development, and most of the rest to content analysis, the focus of the author's own extensive researches. In the first two brief sections he reviews the work of others.

I was disappointed to find such a cursory treatment of the contributions of the new neurosciences to our knowledge about dreaming. Domhoff makes no effort to make his summary of a highly technical literature accessible to readers who are not quite familiar with brain anatomy. He does not define many terms that have somewhat different meanings in the brain sciences from those in ordinary psychological or psychiatric discourse; for example, he speaks of “activation” and “reactivation” without explaining the difference. This field is advancing with such breathless rapidity that any summary is bound to be out of date as soon as it is published.

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