Consumer Psychology

What Do Dreams Say About Your Personality?

You might wonder: if dreams can relate to your life, they might also reflect your personality.

Sometimes dreams feel truly random, nonsensical, and distant from our waking experiences. But they are not always ambiguous and shuffled. Oftentimes dreams feel intimate and related to everyday occurrences. They become a psychic conduit for problems (and perhaps solutions) in life, whether creative or emotional in nature.

You might wonder, if dreams can relate to your life, they might also reflect your personality. 

Psychologists have examined the relationship between personality dimensions and dreams. And while there are some definite connections, some are more clear than others.


Color Dreaming and Jungian Personality Types

Carl Jung was the pioneer of personality dimensions. Jung’s concepts of extraversion and introversion were thought to be related to curiosity, imagination, and openness to inner or social experiences. 

One researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine used the Myers-Briggs Indicator—the ever popular but questionable personality test—to study differences in color dreaming. Overall, Suinn found that Introversive type men tended to dream more frequently in color, while more vivid colors appeared in high Sensation and Feeling types (1966). On the other hand, women designated under the Feeling type in the study dreamt more in color, while the Intuition type perceived more vivid color. The Feeling type affected the amount of color dreams for women, while  it affected the vividness of dreams in men. Moreover, Feeling type men did not necessarily dream more in color, but when they did it was more pronounced.  

In the study, not all color was the same. Sensation types were more likely to experience reality color, which corresponded to accurate depictions of real life environments, while Feeling types experienced more symbolic color charged with emotion.

Dreaming All The Time?

If dreams do mirror aspects of personality, then it would make sense that dreams also reflect waking experiences from everyday life. In support of Hall’s continuity hypothesis, researchers Levin and Young proposed that dreaming and waking states of consciousness are not discrete, but lie on a continuum. 

The researchers studied fantasy proneness—a personality trait indicative of a disposition towards imaginative thought—and absorption—a personality trait where a person becomes absorbed in mental imagery. They found that people who were more immersed in waking fantasy, coupled with the disposition towards becoming deeply absorbed in their imagination, were able to recall more dreams. Not only did the subjects with higher trait fantasy proneness and absorption recall more dreams, they also displayed a marked sensitivity to the quality—colors, imagery, sensations—of their dreams (Levin and Young, 2002). 

Not all researchers agree that dreams are definitely related to personality traits. Some researchers point to methodological issues—like the fact that dreams are typically studied through subjective recollections—while others point to limited evidence of robust correlations to well known measures of personality (Blagrove, 2007). For example, some people could be better at recalling their dreams, or even more prone to sharing details, while others are not.  It could be that the methods used to study dreams rely too heavily on self-reporting, which is subject to bias. Thus results from research targeting  personality and dream may reflect differences in awareness and attribution during the recall process, rather than actual differences in dreams. 

Another argument concerns the effects of personality traits versus situational factors on personality. One study found that state factors of personality may have more influence than trait factors. Schredl and Jacob reported that a subject’s dream diary reflected more male characters when they were immersed in a supposedly male dominant environment, in this case an engineering program, versus a supposedly female dominant program like psychology. The researchers found that the man dreamed more of male characters when in the engineering program, showing the importance of situations factors on dream content (Shredl and Jacob, 1998). 

However, despite a lack of clear cut consensus, there are frontrunners for correlations between personality traits and dreams.

Personality Traits Related To Dreaming

Dream recall frequency (DRF) is one of the most commonly studied aspects of personality in dream research. One personality trait in particular has emerged in a significant relationship with dream recall frequency. Boundary structures of the mind describe how “thin” or “thick” a person’s inner and outer experiences are, including sleeping and waking (Hartmann, 1991). A person with thin boundaries might blur the lines between fantasy and reality, while a person with relatively thick boundaries might have more clear cut boundaries. In terms of personality and dreaming, thin boundaries seem to be the more notable of the two. 

People with thin boundaries recall dreams more often, value the creativity of their dreams more, and even dream of more social interactions (Schredl, et. al., 1999, Hartmann and Kunzendorf, 2006). Other researchers found that people with thin boundaries also have more bizarre dreams and even incorporate more content from their waking life (Aumann et. al., 2012). This finding adds validity to the very concept, and puts a back-bone to the continuity hypothesis between waking and dreaming states. 

In terms of Big Five personality traits, researchers have found some interesting correlations. Openness to experience positively related to lucid dreaming, while Agreeableness negatively related. The researchers attributed the findings to a few potential reasons. First, the previously mentioned personality dimensions, absorption and thin boundaries, can be conceptualized as subdimensions of Openness to experience (Hess et. al., 2017).  On the other side of the coin, Agreeableness focuses on altruism. The researchers theorize that lucid dreamers might be less agreeable in waking life because their dreams are focused on fulfilling their own needs. Finally, there is evidence of the connection between neuroticism and the frequency of nightmares(Schredl et. al., 2003).


Did You Know?

Dreams about social media are very rare! An online study found that only 2% of dreams included social media topics. But the more that you use social media, the more likely you are to dream about it.


Can Dreams Guide Behavior? 

If dreams have the potential to reflect parts of who you are, then they might also be able to shape who you become. In the 1990s, researchers Hajek and Belcher studied the dreams of abstinent former smokers. Surprisingly, the researchers found that dreams about smoking were indicative of avoiding relapse. The authors argued that these dreams of smoking—called dreams of absent-minded transgressions—served as a form of “aversive conditioning that negatively reinforces relief of guilt or self-recrimination on awakening” (Hajek and Belcher, 1991, p. 490). 

A more recent study on the influential power of dreams found that people tend to find meaning in their dreams, kinds of meaning that can guide what choices people make, and which ones they don’t. Morewedge and Norton found that dream content could influence a person’s judgment the following day. For example, subjects who dreamed of a plane crash were less likely to fly, or those who dreamed of a friend protecting them felt more affinity for the friend (2009). 

Dreams certainly can leave a lasting impression when recalled. At times, dreams  can reveal parts of personality, and at other times, they can influence decision making. The hints between dreams and waking life push human curiosity forward in the pursuit of meaning in dreams. Though there might not be a definitive answer, it seems plausible that dreams have something to say about who you are, and even more about who you will become.


Aumann, C., Lahl, O., & Pietrowsky, R. (2012). Relationship between dream structure, boundary structure and the Big Five personality dimensions. Dreaming, 22(2), 124–135.

Blagrove, M. (2007). Dreaming and Personality. In D.Barrett & P.McNamara (Eds.) The new science of dreaming, volume 2: Content, recall, and personality correlates. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers. 

Hajek, P., & Belcher, M. (1991). Dream of absent-minded transgression: an empirical study of a cognitive withdrawal symptom. Journal of abnormal psychology, 100(4). pp. 487–491.

Hartmann, E. (1991). Boundaries in the mind: A new psychology of personality. Basic Books.

Hartmann, E., & Kunzendorf, R. G. (2006). Boundaries and Dreams. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 26(1), 101–115.

Hess, G., Schredl, M., & Goritz, A. S. (2017). Lucid dreaming frequency and the Big Five personality factors. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 36(3). pp. 240–253

Levin, R., & Young, H. (2002). The Relation of Waking Fantasy to Dreaming. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 21. pp.  201 - 219.

Morewedge, C. K., & Norton, M. I. (2009). When dreaming is believing: The (motivated) interpretation of dreams. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(2), 249–264.

Schredl, M., & Jacob, S. (1998). Ratio of male and female characters in dream series. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 86(1). Pp. 198–200.

Schredl, M., Schäfer, G., Hofmann, F., & Jacob, S. (1999). Dream content and personality: Thick vs. Thin boundaries. Dreaming, 9(4). pp. 257–263.

Schredl, M., Landgraf, C., & Zeiler, O. (2003). Nightmare Frequency, Nightmare Distress and Neuroticism. North American Journal of Psychology, 5(3). pp.  345–350.

Schredl, M., & Göritz, A. S. (2019). Social Media, Dreaming, and Personality: An Online Study. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking, 22(10). pp.  657–661.

Suinn, R.M. (1966). Jungian personality typology and color dreaming. Psych. Quar. 40, pp. 659–666. 

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