Is There a Distinction Between Dream Memories And False Memories?


False memories are constructs of the human mind, as are dreams. The occurrences of dreams and false memories are common and do not signify any psychological challenges to the human brain. There have been studies on the effects of false dreams to criminal cases, especially the ones attached to sexual crimes. False memories have made it almost impossible to determine which sexual offense cases to take on or reject. the relationship between dreams and false memories is thin but cannot be ruled out altogether. The connection between false memories and dreams can be studied in future form the perspective of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of the unconscious mind.

Is There a Distinction Between Dream Memories And False Memories?

The human brain can have false memories. There is also the possibility of the human mind recalling an event that happened in a dream as if it happened in reality. There comes a time when the brain merges dreams and memories and the human mind cannot set the two apart. As a result, one will always recall an event that occurred in a dream as one that they took part in. This research project is set to find out what makes it difficult to distinguish between dream and real event memories after some time. The question that comes up as a result of studying this topic is whether the fact that dream memories can be mistaken for real event memories is an indication that the brain can create false memories at will. The false memory theory also presents a new dimension on the permanence of memory in the human brain. People are likely to forget real-time events the same way they are likely to forget some dreams. Psychologically, there have been claims that the human brain can suppress painful memories into the unconscious section of the brain. This means that there is a possibility that not everything the human brain recalls is necessarily something that they have experienced before. 

Memories and dreams are part of the things that come up in the human mind. They are records of events that have crossed the human mind in reality or virtually. This means that the reality of the events stored in the human mind vary with the situations under which they were taken in. It is important for people to train their brains to store events as they happened. This will prevent them from having false memories created along the way and distorting the memories of real events. The relationship between false memories and dreams is subject to research.

Dreams and false memories have not been explored exclusively. The discussion has always been split into studying dreams in connection with the functionality of the brain’s neurotic power. It is important to consider possible distortion factors like trauma when studying the memory retention of the brain. Strong emotions can also distort a person’s memory status. It is possible for the human mind to record events and bring them up from memory during times of mental instability. People often believe that they saw something happen in reality even when it did not happen. The mental state of the human brain is relative to calm in the environment. When a person stays in a calm environment, the brain is likely to store true memories. This makes it more difficult to tell how accurate the memory of the human mind can be. It is important that when studying the relationship between dreams and false memories, one considers the fact that memories can be distorted by the changes in the environmental stability.

This subject raises the question of whether human memory is reliable and dependable in terms of recalling past events as a point of reference. The fact that the human brain is capable of mixing up a dream, read and experienced memories and twist them into one reality, leaves no doubt that everything people say they remember may not always be correct. The idea that the human brain can also repress a selected bit of memory is an indication that there is a need to establish how much the brain can handle without therapy. There are people who have filed litigations against people who abused them in their childhood yet they had never spoken of the events all the way into their adulthood. One researcher who went through the videos of the Holocaust survivors reported that the pain in the memories of the respondents weighed down on him as he was a German by birth but the events of the Holocaust are not justifiable even when they occurred to protect the purity of Germans. The painful memories such as these are usually stored in the unconscious mind and only come up when the individuals go through therapy. However, even during therapy, the truth of the memories that come up is questionable. Therefore, the research questions in this study are; 

  1. Do false memories exist and why?
  2. Why do people dream of themselves or others?
  3. Why do people mix up the memories of dreams and real events in their memories?
  4. What is the relationship between dreams and false memories?

Literature Review

There have been articles about therapists who aided the creation of false memories in their patients in a social experiment. The social experiment had people believing that at one point they had been lost in a shopping mall, an event that had never occurred in their real lives. One particularly interesting social experiment had many people believing that they had been on a hot air balloon ride. This was a false memory created by the psychologist showing a fake edited picture of the individuals as children in a hot air balloon (Hogenboom, 2013). This makes it difficult to believe in the memories that people claim to remember only when they go through therapy. People tend to recall events that they imagined as being real memories. This makes it difficult for people to ascertain experiences they claim to have undergone without the support of a witness. 

Some research reports, however, have dismissed the eyewitness theory as a source of confirmation for an event. The case used in the research study is the unfortunate event of the plane crash that happened in 1996 on the 17th of July. A Trans-World Airlines flight 800 crashed. Despite the investigations bringing up the cause of the flight crash, people around the area reported that it was a missile attack. This was a false memory from all the eyewitnesses that even had the investigators confused and some started believing in the theory of a missile attack. However, the missile attack theory was becoming believable because there had been events of missile attacks or threats around that time (Toglia, Read, Ross, & Lindsay, 2017). Witnesses who acted on false memories did not leave the media behind on reporting a false account. This means that false memories do exist in the human brain as do false events. 

The methods that have previously been used to conduct these research studies have included sampling and using a controlled population. The participants of the research were tested for their recollection of events that they had read in a book and events that they had experienced in real life (Horton, 2014). It was discovered that the human brain with a good recollection memory of the items that the individuals had read and could clearly point out it was a memory from reading, also have better recollection capabilities for dreams. On the other hand, there are people who recall memories from reading merged with real-life experiences indistinctly. These people have a lower capability of pointing out whether the memory they can pull up is a dream or a real past event. These are psychological capabilities that can be trained over time with memory exercises.

The general findings in most of the literature acknowledge the presence of false memories in the human brain. This means that people have always had memories that they believe are true but in reality never happened before. Some psychologists have made the insinuation that a human brain that can generate false memories is a healthy brain. There are incidents where people experience the same thing as an accident but when reporting it, their testimonies are different (Dogson, 2015). The things people see and how they remember them is determined by their individual perspectives of life. The presence of false memories in the human mind is an indication that some of the memories could be dream memories being mistaken as real memories. The literature that is available on the connection between dreams and false memories is hard to come by. The few that are available are hardly conclusive. They make a distant connection between the possibilities of dreams coming up in the false memory recollection of the human brain. All these factors need to be considered when putting together the study of how dreams are connected to the creation of false memories in the human. 

The clarity of details surrounding the research on psychological theories is hard to ascertain because it is not a clinical procedure. The fact that it is not something that can be tested in the laboratories and the results analyzed makes it complicated to execute. However, people can be assisted to make sense of the research procedure and ascertain the methods that were used for the same. The assumptions need to be listed and more explanation offered on why the analysis was conducted the way it was. Mixing up memories is a common occurrence for the human brain that is difficult to split. It is important that when analyzing the memory of the human brain, the ability to split the real event memories from false memories is presented. False memories can be created when the human brain recalls the experience in a different light from when it happened. According to Taylor Bennett, people can recall an experience with bias when they remember it being more difficult than it really was (Bennett, 2017). This is one of the ways in which the human brain, inspired by the personality of the individual can alter the memory of events.

Dreams and false memories are both items in the subconscious mind of a human being that may alter the way people remember things. There are assumptions that sleep enhanced the development of false memories while there are claims that fatigues also contributes. This makes the connection of dreams to false memories stretched. However, the role of sleep in developing false memories has not been established yet. People still have to deal with false memories and memories of dreams separately. They are likely to be studied in future to connect the idea of false memories and dreams in the human mind or find out that the two do not mix.

There have been claims that the distortion of memory is a mental problem. However, there can be triggers that can justify memory distortions. Memory distortions due to triggers like trauma cannot be considered a form of memory impairment (Jacques, Olm, & Schacter, 2013). This is because, in times of trauma or fatigue, the mind cannot be expected to function normally. The probability of the mind creating false memories during traumatic events is high. The same case applies to have dreams that cannot be explained during traumatic periods in one’s life. The memory of the human mind can be monitored using the functional imaging resonance imaging. This method has been used to monitor how the memory is updated. This study activity was conducted on people during a visit to the museum. The subjects of the study were taken to a museum and later shown pictures and asked to confirm whether they had seen the specific spot or not during the trip. It is important that when looking at the way the brain updates memory, the neural analysis is observed on the basis of the reactivation. This is where the researchers can correctly point out how false memories are formed.

Mixing up false memories and dream memories are common. People who have busy and eventful days are more predisposed to mixing up such kind of memories. This is because in the events of one day, so much may have happened, they are likely to have met many people and barely remember all of them. In the lives of these people, it is highly likely that in the event that they dream about something, it is automatically roped in with their memories of daily activities. They may be able to point out these differences for a few days but as the days go by, the memories get mixed up. This is a brief explanation of how false memories are created from dreams. False memories in the human brain are an indication that the brain has a creative capability. 

Dreams have been said to be signs of the psychotic set up in the mind. There are reports from the research that tied dreams to the state of mind of the individuals. The dream memories were monitored and the reality of the memories was found to overlap with other kinds of memory. The reality of the dreams that the respondents self-reported was likely to be mixed up with their memories (Corlett, Canavan, Nahum, Nahum, & Morgan, 2014). The people who remember their dreams most vividly are likely to experience false memories because they cannot explicitly point out which memory was real and which memory was from a dream. From this study, the patterns of dreams stem from an individual being with good with making stories. This is an indication that being able to recall a dream and recalling a memory that was being fabricated by the mind is possible. It goes to show that the human mind cannot be trusted to have real memories over a period of time.

More research should be conducted to ascertain whether the recollection of dreams can be viewed as a measure of the possibility of people having occurrences of false memories. People may be struggling to come to terms with the fact that they remember some dreams and forget others. Some of the forgotten dreams are usually painful dreams. They go into the category of repressed traumatic memories that can only reportedly come up during therapy. The methods of research also need to be redefined for clarity. The criteria of choice of the research population are not well explained as well. 


According to various research studies, false memories do exist. This has mostly been tested on the credibility of eyewitness events. However, eyewitnesses can fail because in most cases, when events occur unexpectedly, eyewitnesses only get to catch a glimpse of the whole event. Naturally, the human mind only takes note of events after a trigger draws their attention. For instance, in an event where an individual is an eyewitness in a shooting incident, they only note that the shooter was either male or female after the gunshot makes a sound and draws their attention. At this point, when the eyewitness tries to remember whether they had seen the shooter before the incident, they may or may not remember seeing them. This makes it difficult to believe their testimonies about the events leading up to the shooting (Albright, 2017). At this point, an eyewitness could develop false memory and picture themselves having an altercation with the shooter days before even when they had never met. As it stands, the closest researchers have come to affirming the malleability of the human mind is when deconstructing the accounts of eyewitnesses.

The idea of false memories has, however, been found to affect only a few people. There are people who cannot suffer from memory mix-ups (Patihis, et al., 2013). Such people will correctly identify a person they only met once and even remember what they were wearing on the day they met. It is important that when looking at the issues of false memories one notes that it does not apply to everybody. Conclusively, false memories exist in some people due to the biological differences in their genetic status. This was documented in a research study where people were exposed to highly superior autobiographical memory tests in a bid to confirm whether there are people who are more receptive to memory distortions or not.

When people dream of themselves in situations, they are prone to mixing up the events in dreams with real lie events, hence creating false memories. People tend to dream of themselves in situations because the human mind, even during sleep still maintains memory. There are no reports indicating the reason for people being present in their dreams. However, there is an assumption that dream represents the state of mind of the individual. People tend to dream about events that they have thought about subconsciously, consciously or even contemplated doing. However, people dream about people they have yet to meet and sometimes these dreams are triggered by having seen the dream subject in a picture. These are assumptions that are yet to be researched and recorded. 

The clarity of dreams has been attributed to the fact that the individual has a high retention capacity. The brain can only recall events and dreams that the subconscious mind can bring forwards. This means that the brain has the capability of forgetting some events, dreams and false dreams completely. The state of mind of the brain can be studied to establish whether the environment contributes to the forgetfulness of the human brain of memories and dreams. However, the retention quality of a memory cannot be expected to remain the same for a dream. This is because a dream is a virtual event whereas a memory from a real event is something the individual physically took part in.

Dreams and memories in the human brain are affected by the space in which the individual is at during the period where they should recall them. This means that when an individual is going through traumatic events in their lives, the retention capabilities of events is likely to change. This means that the events can be forgotten if they are the cause for the trauma. However, there are people who cannot forget traumatic events and have to rely on therapy for survival. This goes to show that the human brain’s functionality varies depending on how well the surroundings are adjusted to the state of mind of the individual.

Studying the human brain is an extensive exercise that researchers need to work together on. Given the fact that aside from the heart keeping the body alive, it is the brain that determines how active an individual can be when alive. This is why people can be brain dead and yet the heart still functions. However, the brain dead patient is partially dead because they often cannot take part in any activities including the basic activities like feeding themselves. With a failing heart and a functional brain, an individual can function with a pacifier for as long as the brain can coordinate the body to breath and move on the machine. This often does not make the patient immobile and being brain dead does. This goes to show how important the health of the brain is to the quality of life an individual decides to lead. The health of the brain is also the basis upon which the memory retention and dream recollection is based. There is need for more research to make the connection of a healthy brain to the occurrence of dreams and recollection of memories.

The relationship between dreams and false memories is basically the individual, the host human brain. The dream and the memory both belong to one person. It is for this reason that they can easily get mixed up and the owner has difficulty telling them apart. It is important to note that dreams can be influenced by memories suppressed in the unconscious mind. The presence of memory in the human brain is evidence that people can recall events, experiences, and materials that they have watched or read clearly or vaguely. There was a research exercise that was conducted to ascertain whether people make up memories. It was confirmed when the population sample was given words to read and later asked what words they could recall. Most people reportedly remembered the word sleep even when it was non-existent in the words they read. The word only came up because all the other words were related to sleep directly. Some of the words were; bed, blanket, dream, and snooze among others.


The literature research materials leave a lot to be researched in the future. The existing studies have focused so much on the eyewitness accounts and the fact that they are unreliable. Eyewitness accounts on matters of past abuse have been questioned for a long time. This is because the event passed and cannot be validated. Some of these claims have been reported after decades and any possible witnesses are unreachable. However, these incidents were questioned because they all came up after therapy sessions. Given the fact that the brain can create false memories, it is important to also note that these allegations may not be entirely true. This gives the courts the tough job of ascertaining how legitimate the issues raised were. The human mind is capable of making up events and storing them in memory. This is how people end up with good stories they can write into a book or film. The capability of the human mind to create events and store them makes it possible for false memories to also exist. 

At workplaces and even educational institutions, the human brain is the basis of all operations. This is because people develop ideas about companies and create them. They go ahead and employ workers who bring in expertise in terms of ideas and workforce. At this point, the strength of the human mind cannot be undermined. Employees can create stories and claim to have been present when the event took place yet it never happened. These cases can affect people who are susceptible to being faced with sexual harassment claims. The “victims” can make up a story and claim to have been harassed. Such a claim can only be validated using psychologists with the capability to probe a victim and determine the truth. Such kind of actions may have led to wrongful convictions of innocent people or acquittal of guilty parties. 

False memories and dreams connect when the human mind has to bring out events that took place previously for reference in the present moment. At this point, memories can be mixed up and sometimes, new memories created with totally different and new ideas from the original event. It is important to take into consideration the fact that memories are stored in a form that the individual comprehends. Therefore, the account of one event by two individuals may differ. Similarly, memories from a past event may be recounted differently every time the memory is recounted. This is because each time a person talks about a memory, they are likely to remember something else about the event. 

Future studies should focus on connecting dreams and false memories. Most of the research studies have focused on either dream as neurotic functions of the brain and matters affecting memory as matters of psychology. The human brain functions as both a neurotic and psychological unit. This means that at some point, matters affecting the human brain, like the memory and dreams should have an established connection. The fact that the human brain can store memories and suppress them so much that they do not easily come up should also be studied. This is a factor that goes beyond the psychoanalytic theory written by Sigmund Freud on the ability of the human brain to have an unconscious presence that store memories too painful to handle. People tend to use the unconscious mind to deal with emotions that are overwhelming to their mental wellness. The ability of people to recall deep-seated memories with motivation from therapy is an indication that memories never fade. They only need a trigger to bring them up and help the individual to relieve the events afresh. The ability of the human mind to recall dreams and events is an indication that even when false memories are created, they are also subject to alteration over time. 

Memories and dreams are both created and stored in the human mind. The comprehension and interpretation of events for the human mind are normal. It is for this reason that people get to remember their dream days after it happened and others forget events that happened in real life barely days after it did. There are also events where an individual experiences so many dreams in a short span of time. It mainly happens when taking a nap or after snoozing an alarm. People tend to fall into short and deep sleep. On waking up, the individual may be tired, sweaty or well rested yet they only slept for a few hours. The numerous dreams that come to the sleeping individual at this time are usually long, clear but easily forgotten. Once the person wakes up and takes a moment to think about the dream mainly that becomes the end of it.

The human brain is remains the most important part of the human body. It controls the ability to think, learn, create and even store knowledge. This makes the health of the brain an important factors when looking at the retention capabilities of an individual. The brain needs to be studied in a way that its functions can be understood and monitored over time. In particular, the dreams and memories of the human brain should be studied to establish why they occur and how well the human brain can be depended on in terms of retention of memories. The clarity of a dream and a memory in the human brain can be established to eliminate or ascertain the occurrence of false memories. The environment around which the individual resides has also been considered to affect the health and wellness of the human brain relatively. Violence and instability increase the chances of the brain creating and storing up false memories and supressing other memories altogether. These are factors that relate to the litigations that take place when people attend therapy sessions and end up suing perpetrators of violence many years after the act happened. The human brain is broad and versatile. It is capable of many things and difficult to study conclusively.


Albright, T. D. (2017, July 25). Why eyewitnesses fail. Retrieved from PNAS:

Bennett, T. (2017, October 24). How Your Brain Creates False Memories. Retrieved from Thrive Networks:

Corlett, P. R., Canavan, S. V., Nahum, L., Nahum, L., & Morgan, P. T. (2014, July 16). Dreams, reality and memory: confabulations in lucid dreamers implicate reality-monitoring dysfucntion in dream consciousness. Retrieved from Congnitive Neuropychiatry :

Dogson, L. (2015). False Memories. Retrieved from Business Insider:

Hogenboom, M. (2013, September 29). Why does the human brain create false memories? Retrieved from BBC News:

Horton, C. L. (2014). Correlates of Dream Recall: Implications for Confabulation. Sage Journals,

Jacques, P. S., Olm, C., & Schacter, D. (2013, December 3). Neural mechanisms of reactivation-induced updating that enhance and distort memory. Retrieved from PNAS:

Patihis, L., Frenda, S. J., LePort , A. K., Petersen, N., Nichols, R. M., Stark, C. E., . . . Loftus, E. (2013, December 24). False memories in highly superior autobiographical memory individuals. Retrieved from PNAS:

Toglia, M. P., Read, J. D., Ross, D. F., & Lindsay, R. (2017). The handbook of eyewitness psychology: Volume 1. New York: Psychology Press.

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