Everything you know is wrong! Each week, we ask writer and Jeopardy! ace Ken Jennings (seen at left and far left) to tear down one of the lies that they teach us in school, man. But you knew that already if you heard Ken's appearance on the Drunken Smartass Trivia podcast. During these sleepy dog days of August, Ken will expose four common misconceptions about sleep. We feel like there should be a "debunkbed" joke here, but we can't make it work as of press time.
This week... Sleep Myth #1: We Dream In Black & White.
In MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale lives in a sepia-toned Kansas, but dreams her way into a Technicolor Oz. For many years, the conventional wisdom held that the real-world relationship went the other way: our dreams were monochromatic. But in more recent studies, dreamers have reported seeing colored objects in up to 83 percent of their dreams. Those who don’t are typically older folks who grew up on black-and-white movies and TV.
In a recent study from Scotland, dreamers who were better at recalling dream details were also more likely to report color, so it’s possible that everyone dreams in color, but some of us—those of us raised on lots of Gunsmoke and I Love Lucy, presumably—reconstruct them in black and white when we think back later. Other dream researchers take the somewhat Zen view that dreams are usually neither color nor black-and-white—that most dream objects come with unspecified color, like the objects in a novel. Colorblind people, by the way, only report full-color dreams if they became colorblind late in life. Otherwise their dreams will match their visual deficiency.
If Hollywood really does have this tight a hold on the format of our dreams, don’t be surprised if dream researchers soon start to see sleepers reporting THX sound and, for those willing to pay five bucks more, 3-D and IMAX.
Next week: Sleep Myth #2!
Quick Quiz:. Speaking of The Wizard of Oz, what kind of birds does Dorothy sing that she'd like to follow "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"?
Ken Jennings is the author of Brainiac, Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac, and the forthcoming Maphead. Follow him at ken-jennings.com or on Twitter as @KenJennings.