Zyra's front page //// Misconceptions //// e-mail //// Site Index

We Dream in Black and White?

It's quite a commonly-held belief that we dream in Black and White! It's not true, of course. You can see this by the fact that at least every now-and-then you can remember a dream in which there was some colour. Some particular object in a dream was a particular colour.

So why is it believed that we dream in black and white? I know why, and I'll try to explain it, but it's not an easy thing to explain as there are extra concepts required.

The first thing is that YES it's true there are dreams in which there is no colour, but that is not because they're in black and white!

What happens is that in dreaming, the automatic checking systems that go on in the mind are turned off. So, if the queen of England visited and brought a few aliens round for tea you'd probably be working out if you'd got enough cups and whether the biscuits you'd got would be acceptable, rather than thinking that it was a bit odd to be visited by the queen and some aliens.

Also, in dreams, things which aren't relevant are just unspecified, and there are no alarm bells to flag up that something is missing. So, when you're flying on a magic carpet, you can't necessarily say which shoes you might have been wearing.

But not being able to tell what shoes you had on does not imply you were barefoot. This is what happens with the colour situation. In a dream, where the colour of something is relevant, you see colour, but where the colour is not relevant, there is no colour information. But that doesn't mean it's in black&white.

Black and white is a function of televisions when the colour information is removed, but the same is not true of the mind. Take a look at a few examples, grass for example might not be green in a dream, but it's not grey like in a black and white movie. It's just not relevant what colour it is. Most people's hair colour is not grey in a dream, but just "average coloured". If you saw Zyra in a dream, you'd probably see a vivid hair colour but not necessarily be able to tell what colour it was!

It is this, the fact that "missing" information is not noticed to be missing, that fools the conscious mind on waking up into concluding that therefore by implication the dream must have been in black and white, whereas in fact it was just that colour wasn't important in that particular dream.

Plus, if anyone actually still believes that in dreams there is never any colour because the experts always say "we dream in black and white", just stop believing the experts! You'll soon wake up and find you have dreamt something which had some vivid colour!

Here's another helpful page on the "Dream in Black and White" issue. See http://www.bullseyerooster.com/blog/?p=1092 (gone?)

Also, thanks to the correspondent who kindly wrote in and mentioned a similar concept: If you suffer a knock on the head, you might "see stars", which might be in different colours. What about colourblind people? Do they see colours in that way in such an incident? It is my speculation that they'd actually see colours which they'd never see with their eyes. This then raises the question of what colours the non-colourblind people see in such a flash. It might be that there are colours seen which have no parallel in normal vision.

Also see: Cats: Can they see in the dark?