Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Smell Dreams: Squeezing Data from Comments

One of my earliest posts on FirstNerve was about smell in dreams, a topic that captured my interest when I was researching WTNK but that didn’t make it into the book. That post, which went up in October, 2008, is the top-rated Google search return for “smell in a dream,” and it is one of the most frequently visited items on FN.

Over the years commenter have left reports of smell dreams. In the spirit of crowd-sourced participatory science (free data!), I decided to analyze the material.

Of the 20 commenters who reported smelly dreams, 11 were women, 3 were men, and 6 didn’t say. The 79% female bias in olfactory dream reports fits pretty well with the formal studies I describe in the post.

Here’s a list of the 23 smells that were mentioned, grouped by theme:
lit match
campfire smoke
burning wood
burning smell
burning tortilla
burnt toast

brewing coffee
alcohol (i.e., booze)
baking smell

shit (long-haired hippie)
cat urine
dog feces

Old Spice
menthol/Vick’s VapoRub

various trees, bushes and flowers
white gardenia

[vague smell of fear]

The biggest group is smoke/burning; it accounts for 30% of the total. (In the 2004 study by Stevenson & Case, the proportion was 21%.)

Food and drink were 17% of the comment total; Stevenson & Case found that roughly half of all dream smells involved food. So food looks underrepresented in the FN sample.

Human and animal body odors also scored 17% on FN; this is close to the 21% reported by Stevenson & Case.

Overall, I’d say the FN dream smells look pretty reasonable for a totally haphazard, self-selected internet sample. Thanks to everyone for sharing!

P.S. One commenter describes dreaming of a horrible, nauseating taste. Unusual.

1 comment:

Tara C said...

I get that a lot - dreams that I am eating something disgusting that is nauseating me. I wake up feeling sick. Very odd.