Dream On: The Role of Personality Type in Dream Retention
Researchers have long sought to answer the question, “Why do some people remember their dreams while others don’t?”
Historically, the content of the dream itself was thought to be the main factor in whether or not it would be remembered. Sigmund Freud, in his seminal 1899 work The Interpretation of Dreams, noted several potential reasons why dreams are forgotten after waking up. Possible reasons include the images or emotions in dreams not being vivid enough, the tendency to forget an event (such as a dream) that only happens once, and the generally incoherent and unintelligible nature of dreams. One other possible reason: some people just don’t care if they remember their dreams or not.
More recently, several physiological factors have been explored, ranging from brain activity to sleep deprivation. To determine which personality traits may influence dream recall, we asked our 16Personalities community to agree or disagree with the following statement: “You remember most of your dreams.”
Our data provides fascinating clues that may, in fact, support some of Freud’s early assertions. For example, 65% of Intuitive personality types agreed that they remember most of their dreams – the highest agreement rate of all the individual traits – compared to 50% of Observant types. The Feeling, Judging, and Turbulent personality traits proved to be influential as well. Let’s explore these results in (psycho) analytical detail below.
Diplomats (66% agreeing)
Tireless idealists, Diplomats are considered the dreamers of the world of personality types. Whether they are daydreaming about their altruistic endeavors or literally dreaming at night, these types are the most apt to remember a majority of their dreams.
The Intuitive and Feeling traits are key components of the Diplomat Role, especially when it comes to dreams. Dreams can invoke strong feelings (think of the terror you feel in a dream where you’re falling, or the embarrassment in a dream where you’re nude in front of a crowd). They can also be abstract, nonlinear, and difficult to make sense of in a logical way. In this sense, Intuitive personality types are at an advantage, since they thrive on ideas and possibilities, unlike their Observant counterparts, who prefer rational, factual, and observable things. Feeling types are at an advantage as well, because they’re more in touch with their emotions.
Of all the personality types, Protagonists (ENFJ) (71%) were the most likely to remember their dreams. For this type, the Judging trait, in conjunction with the Intuitive and Feeling traits, plays a vital role in dream recall. Individuals with the Judging trait prefer structure, which may provide them with the mental resources to provide structure to their otherwise incomprehensible dreams. As natural leaders, Protagonists may believe that if they can extract meaning from their dreams, they can use it to build stronger connections with others. If these personalities wake up from a dream feeling inspired and energized, they’re going to want to remember why the dream made them feel that way, so they can translate that experience to others and inspire them in turn.
Analysts are also Intuitive personality types, but their Thinking trait makes them slightly less inclined to remember their dreams, or even to have memorable dreams in the first place. As previously mentioned, dreams are more memorable when they have an emotional component to them – something that makes them especially vivid. Thinking personality types like Analysts may be less prone to experiencing these types of dreams, or they may just have less desire to remember dreams with emotional content.
Observant types that they are, Sentinel personalities are much more comfortable with concrete facts than abstractions and possibilities. Since most dreams are inherently illogical and abstract, Sentinels may derive little value from remembering them. Their Judging personality trait, however, provides them with a greater ability to retain and recall their nocturnal adventures – so many remember their dreams whether they want to or not.
Explorers were the least likely personality types to remember their dreams, due to their Observant and Prospecting traits. The illogical nature of dreams holds less appeal for Explorers, who prefer to live in the moment and focus on the world around them rather than on the abstract and irrelevant (as they may see it) world of dreams. Their Prospecting trait makes it difficult for Explorers to remember dreams – even if they wanted to – as they can be easily bored by anything that is tedious or requires structure.
Of all the personality types, Virtuosos (ISTP) claimed to remember their dreams at the lowest rate (41%). Virtuosos are quite possibly the most “hands-on” personality type, and the world of dreams is unlikely to appeal to them in the first place, since they are unable to explore it in a physical manner. Unless a dream is particularly thrilling, it is unlikely to be of much value to them.
Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (61% and 59% agreeing)
Turbulent personality types were 5% more likely than Assertive types to agree that they remember most of their dreams. As Turbulent types, Social Engagers and Constant Improvers tend to experience a wide range of emotions, and they feel those emotions more intensely than their Assertive counterparts. As previously mentioned, intensity of emotion is one component of dream retention.
Furthermore, Turbulent personalities are always looking for ways to improve themselves. This may make them more interested in remembering their dreams, if they believe that dreams contain hidden meanings that, when analyzed, can help them break through their challenges. Assertive personality types may be less inclined to utilize their energy for such a purpose.
Social Engagers have a slight edge over Constant Improvers because of their Extraverted Minds. One scientific theory indicates that individuals who are more in tune with their external environment are more likely to remember dreams. Extraverted personalities are attracted to external stimulation, meaning that they experience greater influence from the outside environment while they are sleeping. You have probably experienced times where outside noises have filtered into your dreams. For example, you dream that you hear a fire alarm and are trapped in a building that is on fire – only to wake up and discover that your alarm clock is going off.
Constant Improvers, as Introverted personality types, probably have a somewhat different experience. While Extraverts may absorb information from their external environment in dream form and recall it later, Introverts are more likely to be overwhelmed by the additional stimulation taking place, causing them to forget the content of their dream when they wake up.
People Mastery (57%)
Not far behind Constant Improvers were People Masters. While People Masters’ Assertive Identity may hinder their dream recall, their Extravert trait ensures that they will be more likely to experience dreams that they will remember. People Masters may have a somewhat different reason for wanting to remember dreams. These personality types are very interested in figuring out what makes other people tick. Remembering their dreams about other people may help them analyze (consciously or subconsciously) the underlying motivations behind those people’s behaviors and actions, which can, in turn, help People Masters relate to others more effectively.
Confident Individualism (52%)
Both Introverted and Assertive, Confident Individualists were the least likely to say they remember most of their dreams. The combination of being adversely affected by external stimulations while they are sleeping and their somewhat decreased range of emotional experience means that these personality types are less likely to experience memorable dreams. Highly self-confident and not particularly interested in the opinions or behaviors of others, Confident Individualists may see little value in interpreting their dreams, and consequently don’t care to remember them.
Although dreams are a tricky mistress, eluding some and engaging others, our data indicates that personality traits do play a role in the field of dreams.
It is clear that Intuitive personality types have much greater dream retention, which is quite possibly due to their ability to make sense out of the abstract. Intuitive types are probably more interested in dreams in general and make more of a concentrated effort to remember and/or analyze them. Additionally, personalities that experience a greater range of emotions, such as the Feeling and Turbulent types, may experience more dynamic and emotionally stirring – and thus more memorable – dreams.
Ultimately, it is very difficult to determine what allows some individuals to recall their dreams while others do not. It may be as simple as some people desiring to remember their dreams while others do not. What is certain is that the world of dreams is relatively uncharted. Whether dreams are influenced by the physiological, psychological, or metaphysical, they are fascinating and deserve to be studied in greater detail.
What about you? Do you believe that dreams are worth remembering? Do your dreams have a significant influence on your life? Let us know in the comments below!