Hall and VandeCastle Content Analysis of Video Game Players Dreams

(International Association for the Study of Dreams, Montreal, July, 2008)

1. Presenter’s Name(s) and Credential Designations:

Jayne Gackenbach and Beena Kuruvilla

Grant MacEwan College

   2. Type of Presentation and Time Required: Paper

  3. Track: Research & Theoretical

  4. Title of Presentation or Symposium/Panel Hall and VandeCastle Content Analysis of Video Game Players Dreams

  5. Summary of Presentation(s):

Relatively recent dreams were collected in online from high end gamers. These were content analyzed using the Hall and VandeCastle system and the results were compared to another sample of dreams of high end gamers collected in interviews which were not on average, recalled as recently. Some findings were replicated while others were not. Of note was less aggression than in the original content analysis.

  6. Contact Information:

Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D.

Department of Psychology

Grant MacEwan College

10700 - 104 Avenue

Edmonton, AB   T5J 4S2

Phone: 780-633-3892

Email: gackenbachj@macewan.ca

  7. Brief Biography

Jayne Gackenbach, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Grant MacEwan College, Canada. A past president of IASD, she has been an active research and writer in the area of lucid dreams and the psychology of the Internet. Her current research interest is in consciousness and video game play.

Beena Kuruvilla, B.A Honors Student, Grant MacEwan College, Canada. Beena is a fourth year psychology honors student. Her honors thesis examines video game play and dreaming from evolutionary and self awareness perspectives. She has worked as a researcher, examining the relationship between media use and dreaming.

  8. Audio-Visual Aids: PC using powerpoint thus need projector

  9. Space Setup Restrictions: theater-style seating

10. Schedule Restrictions: none

11. Linguistic Restrictions: English

12. Learning Objectives:

     Learning Objectives

  1. 1.      Understand the Hall and VandeCastle system of dream content analysis.
  2. 2.      Appreciate the importance of recent recall of dreams and data collection method in content analysis.
  3. 3.      Learn what replicated and what did not in comparison of the content of two dream sets from high end gamers.

Evaluation Questions

  1. 1.      What is the basic assumptions of the Hall and VandeCastle system of dream content analysis.
  2. 2.      What is the importance of recent recall of dreams and data collection method on subsequent content analysis.
  3. 3.      What replicated and what did not in comparison of the content of two dream sets of dreams from high end gamers.


13. Additional information required for All Workshop and Dream Group Proposals


14. Abstract:

            Gackenbach and colleagues have been examining the dreams of video game players. Initially these studies examined lucid and control dreams in gamers sleep but then turned to an examination of the content of their dreams using the Hall and VandeCastle system of content analysis. This system was selected because these scales have one assumption, frequency equals intensity. The Hall and VandeCastle method also allows for high inter-rater reliability, has well developed norms, and uses categories which are pertinent to waking concerns that may influence dreaming.

In an interview study of 27 hard core gamers, 50+ dreams were collected and content analyzed. These players’ dreams showed the largest effect size for higher dead and imaginary characters, aggression/friendliness percentage and physical aggression than the Hall and Van de Castle norms. But they were lower in bodily misfortunes and dreams with at least one instance of friendliness. Several other variables also showed deviations from the norms. The limits of this preliminary content analysis was that although the most recent dream was asked for in the interview, in many case dreams were collected from various lengths of time. Also 200 dreams is suggested as a minimum for comparison content analysis.

In the present study, over the course of a calendar year almost 900 college students filled out a questionnaire designed to collect dreams and media use information. Most were women with 87% less than 25 years of age. All were undergraduate students at a western Canadian college. Three quarters of the data were collected online in Introductory Psychology mass testing.

A recent dream was collected as well as various information about video game play history and questions dealing with the dream they just reported including how long ago it happened. These questions allowed the selection of relatively recent dreams. A second selection criteria was that each dream be at least 50 words in length. With these proviso’s 229 dreams were identified that were recalled from last night, last week or last month, were 50 words in length, and were dreamt by individuals classified as either low end or high end video game players. However, as with previous research on gaming, the high end gamers, tended to be male (Males=61; Females=25) while the low end ones tended to be female (Males=14; Females=129). For the purposes of analysis gender was collapsed into gamer categories.

These recent dreams collected via questionnaire were then compared to those collected from the interviews of hard core gamers regardless of sex. In both sets of data there are more males than females, both were college students at the same Canadian college, both were identified as high end gamers by the same four questions. The differences are that this questionnaire sample is of more recently recalled dreams relative to the longer recall of the intervidew sample. Thus a comparison of the samples allows us to consider if relatively recent dreams collected anonymously offers support for the earlier findings.

Of the 24 subscale percentages available on the Dream SAT sheet, in the original interview dream collection set half showed significant differences from the male norms. In this set of questionnaire collected recent dreams again half were significantly different from the male norms. In some case the differences from norms were the same, more familiar characters, more dead and imaginary characters, and dreams with at least one instance of aggression, friendliness, sexuality, misfortune, and good fortune. In this last set of percentages all dreams in both data sets of high end gamers evidenced fewer instances than the norms.

Some subscales show a difference from norms where one did not exist earlier; fewer male/female percent, more indoor settings and for the subscales regarding dreams with at least one instance, success and striving were fewer than in the norms. Some differences from norms reported earlier disappeared in this dream set. That is, there was no difference in aggression/friendliness, physical aggression, self-negativity, and bodily misfortunes. Finally, in only one case was the direction of the finding for the recent questionnaire dreams different from the interview collected dreams (i.e., friend characters were higher than norms while in the interview dreams they were significantly lower).

These results will be discussed as well as analyses of infrequent gamers relative to the norms.


15. Summary Vitae

Dr. Gackenbach received her Ph.D. in 1978 in Experimental Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is currently a professor at Grant MacEwan College. She is also an adjunct faculty with Saybrook Graduate School in San Francisco and teaches online for Athabasca University. She has taught at the post-secondary level both in the US and in Canada for over 25 years including these courses taught most often: Educational Psychology for Teachers, Social Psychology, Introductory Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Personality. Dr. Gackenbach has supervised numerous undergraduate research projects as well as several masters and doctoral level dissertations.


As well as being a past-president of the Association for the Study of Dreams, she has 70+ professional publications and 17 book chapters primarily on dreams and higher states of consciousness. Dr. Gackenbach is editor of “Sleep and Dreams: A Sourcebook” (1986) for Garland Publishers. She co-edited “Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain: Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming” (1988) for Plenum Publishers; “Dream Imagery: A Call to Mental Arms” (1991) for Baywood Publishers. Her first authored book is “Control Your Dreams” (1989) for Harper-Collins. This book was featured on the cover of “Psychology Today”, excerpted in “OMNI”, and was selected for the Behavioral Science Book Club. She has appeared on the Donahue Show and in Canada the Dede Petti Show, the Shirley Show, and ManAlive. She was invited in 1992 to present her work on lucid dreaming to the Dalai Lama at a conference on sleeping, dreaming, and dying.


In recent years Dr. Gackenbach’s interests have shifted to computer-mediated communications. In this regard she has edited a book from Academic Press (1998), “Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Transpersonal Implications”. This book is currently in it’s second edition (2007). Gackenbach co-wrote a book called “cyber.rules” for Norton publishers with examines healthy and unhealthy internet use. It also was recently published (2007). She has collaborated on a documentary film about the psychology of Internet use in conjunction with Access TV and Athabasca University which is being broadcast every semester on Canadian Learning Television.


Dr. Gackenbach’s recent research interest combines her dream and technology interests examining the dreams of video game players. In addition to her scholarly interest in dreams, transpersonal psychology, computers and the internet Dr. Gackenbach has done work on Aboriginal perspectives on dreams and the psychology of gender.



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