Last night I dreamed that I had a tip of the tongue experience. Tip of the tongue states are situations where you forget some piece of information, but have a strong sense that you actually know it. Often the information comes to you later in the absence of any outside reminder, strong evidence that the information was there all along.
In my dream, I could not recall the name of a university administrator I was meeting with. I experienced it just like a real TOT state. On waking, I not only remembered the dream, but I also had no problem recalling the administrator’s name. The TOT experience was completely confined to my dream.
This reminds me a bit of the phenomenon of state dependent memory, where a person’s physiological state serves as a memory cue. For example, some people will learn a fact well drunk, forget it when sober, but recall it again when inebriated. This was a central plot point in Chaplain’s film, City Lights.
Hat tip to the Dream & Nightmare Lab blog for alerting me to this study. Here is the abstract:
“We tested whether dreams can anticipate a stressful exam and how failure/success in dreams affect next-day performance. We collected information on students’ dreams during the night preceding the medical school entrance exam. Demographic, academic, sleep and dream characteristics were compared to the students’ grades on the exam. Of the 719 respondents to the questionnaire (of 2324 total students), 60.4% dreamt of the exam during the night preceding it. Problems with the exam appeared in 78% of dreams and primarily involved being late and forgetting answers. Reporting a dream about the exam on the pre-exam night was associated with better performance on the exam (p = .01). The frequency of dreams concerning the exam during the first term predicted proportionally higher performance on the exam (R = 0.1, p = .01). These results suggest that the negative anticipation of a stressful event in dreams is common and that this episodic simulation provides a cognitive gain.”
From the paper’s conclusion:
“In conclusion, dreams about the exam were frequent the day before and several days and months prior to the exam, even among students who had not yet experienced the exam. Although the dreams primarily represented problems and failure, these contextual, anticipatory dreams predicted better performance on the exam. These results suggest that this cognitive episodic simulation in dreams is common.”
Here is a 1942 newsreel from British Pathé with an unscientific view of dreams: