Violent and Sexual Media Content Infiltrate Our Dreams at Night Jan Van den Bulck KU

Violence, Sex, and Dreams: Violent and Sexual Media Content Infiltrate Our Dreams at Night Jan Van den Bulck KU Leuven University

Yakup Çetin Fatih University

Ömer Terzi Yıldız Technical University

Brad J. Bushman The Ohio State University and VU University Amsterdam

Many people today are immersed in media similar to fish in water. Electronic devices provide virtually unlimited access to media. Although people consume media during their waking hours, the media they consume might also affect their dreams during sleeping hours. The media often contain violence and sex. On the basis of cognitive neoassociation theory, we predicted that violent and sexual media content would prime related thoughts in semantic memory. In this study, 1,287 Turkish participants completed a survey about their media consumption and their dreams the previous night. We measured the frequency of their media consumption and the violent and sexual content of the media they consumed on a regular basis and on the day before the survey. We also measured whether they had a dream the night before they completed the survey and dream content if they dreamed (51.5% dreamed). We measured whether participants had dreams with violent and sexual content. Similar results were obtained for regular media consumption and for media consumption on the day before the survey. For both measures, media consumption was positively related to dreaming frequency. Media content also influenced dream content. Specifically, participants who consumed violent media tended to have violent dreams, and participants who consumed sexual media tended to have sexual dreams. These results are consistent with cognitive neoassociation theory and extend the theory by showing that it also applies to sleeping hours as well as waking hours. The results also have practical implications. Media can influence our thoughts, even when we are asleep.

Keywords: violent media, sexual media, dreams, cognitive neoassociation theory

This article was published Online First November 10, 2016. Jan Van den Bulck, School for Mass Communication, KU Leuven University; Yakup Çetin,

Faculty of Education, Fatih University; Ömer Terzi, Faculty of Art and Design, Yıldız Technical University; Brad J. Bushman, School of Communication, and Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, and Department of Communication Science, VU University Amsterdam.

Jan Van den Bulck is now at the Department of Communication Studies, University of Michigan. Ömer Terzi is now at Vocational High School, Istanbul Şehir University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Brad J. Bushman, School of Communication, The Ohio State University, 3016 Derby Hall, 154 North Oval Mall, Columbus, OH. E-mail:

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