Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Pavan Teja says on Psychtronics:

Did you know that ... 12 percent of our dreams are in black and white?

Is this true?


The 12% even split up between young and old. From "Do we only dream in colour? A comparison of reported dream colour in younger and older adults with different experiences of black and white media":

... Moreover, there were inter-group differences in the recall quality of colour and black and white dreams that point to the possibility that true greyscale dreams occur only in people with black and white media experience.

share|improve this question
I hope you don't mind, but I removed the bit about it taking effort to laugh. I don't see how that has any connection with whether and to what extend dreams are in black and white. If you're still interested in that aspect, I'd ask it as a separate question. – Jeromy Anglim Mar 24 '14 at 6:32
@JeromyAnglim it's fine like that...thanks! – draks ... Mar 24 '14 at 13:27
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's difficult to tell. Dreams are very hard to analyse scientifically since they can't be objectively measured, only self-reported. Dreams are notoriously difficult to recall after waking, so it's almost impossible to tell for certain.

There are some self-report studies which do assert that some proportion of dreams are in black and white, but this pattern is not seen in dream reports in various historical sources, so a plausible explanation is that black-and-white dreaming is caused mainly by exposure to black-and-white film media throughout the early 20th century, and that the percentage of dreams that are in black-and-white are skewed toward older populations who grew up with black-and-white films (though I don't personally know of any hard data on this point)

See this article by Schwitzgebel, 2001, who recounts several primary sources to this effect:


Schwitzgebel, E. (2002). Why did we think we dreamed in black and white?. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 33(4), 649-660. PDF

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.