Analysis of taste in dreams. A defined and large-scale investigation of dreamt gustatory experiences
For all the sensation and perception research performed, and even for all the dream research performed, little is known about sensation and perception in dreams. Basic facts about human oneiric sensory modalities have been established over the decades, including rough percentages of sensory occurrences in dreams. However, few studies have thoroughly investigated dreamt sensation and perception, despite their potential utility in understanding waking counterparts. This study uses over 28,000 dreams from the DreamBank database (Schneider & Domhoff, 1999) to focus specifically on gustatory experiences in dreams. About 200 dreams (0.7%) were found to contain taste experiences, and this number reflects an analysis combining optimized regex word-strings with human verification. Tastes were coded by valence (good, bad, neutral/undefined) and class (specific flavor). Numerous analyses were performed, though even such a substantial sample size seems insufficient for the deepest measures, given the apparent rarity of taste dreams. A few notable findings include: 1) good tastes appear more frequently than bad tastes; 2) sweet tastes appear to outnumber all other classes; 3) people are better at recording valence than class/flavor, but are generally quite ineffective at offering salient sensory and perceptual details via dream reports; 4) a few non-significant sex differences were observed, but these measures suffer from inadequate sample size; 5) future analyses of dreamt sensation and perception, especially rare modalities, may warrant methodological consideration; 6) a surprising gulf exists between eating and tasting dreams; and 7) dreamt gustation can be as varied, rich, and surprising as waking gustation. The core of this investigation is to be found in the particularities of each analysis.