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Knapp, P.H. (1956). Sensory Impressions in Dreams. Psychoanal Q., 25:325-347.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:325-347

Sensory Impressions in Dreams

Peter Hobart Knapp, M.D.


A survey of five hundred fifty-four dreams from various sources showed that color first, then sound and kinesthesia, and last smell and taste appeared in statistically consistent and progressively smaller fractions of the total number of dreams. Interesting deviations occurred in the case of color. This fact supports a comparison of most dreams to silent motion pictures in black and white. It is consistent with the concept of a hierarchical organization of sensory experience. Sensory impressions tended to appear in dreams independently of one another. They may be linked both to wide areas of affective life and specific

instinctual drives as, for example, color to voyeuristic conflict. A description of the sensory qualities of most dreams is suggested by the words which characterize the majority of dreams in this study: 'colorless, soundless, motionless, tasteless'. An over-all lifelessness is implied, consonant with the protective nature of the dream work—forming a barrier against the vividness of sensations that are charged with affect and promote wakefulness.

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