The twentieth-century psychologist Calvin Hall (1909–1985) approached dreams as a cognitive process. After analyzing thousands of dream reports, Hall identified five principal areas of life about which dreams reveal information:
- Concepts of self. The kinds and number of roles we play in dreams are strong indicators of our self-concept.
- Concepts of other people. The roles other people play in our dreams reflect our feelings about others and how we interact with people.
- Concepts of the world. The setting of our dreams indicates how we view the world (e.g., ugly and threatening, beautiful and inviting).
- Concepts of impulses, prohibitions, and penalties. The way we behave is governed by our concept of our impulses and the penalties for gratifying them, which is reflected in dream imagery.
- Concepts of problems and conflicts. Dreams especially provide insight into our conflicts and how we attempt to resolve them.
Hall considered dreams a more valid source of information about an individual’s personality than questionnaires and personality tests because dreams can uncover a level of self (what depth psychologists call the unconscious) beyond the perceived self of our everyday, waking consciousness. Hall’s approach to dreams was richer and more interesting than can be portrayed in this brief encyclopedia entry, but his research and thinking on dreams can be found in his book The Meaning of Dreams.