Thinking of or imagining of your exciting picnic the next day or a difficult exam, might have given you dreams of the similar kind, which most of you might have experienced; which the researchers have been attempting to research under ‘coaxing knowledge into dreams’ or simply, influencing dreams. The attempts over decades in the lab have shown thumbs up, reports say. And now, companies long for leveraging the case to incorporate advertising campaigns into the dreams of people, while they are sleeping – which 40 dream researchers declined the issue by online letter, calling it for regulation of commercial dream manipulation – and Burger King, Xbox, Coors are on the frontline.
“OUR DREAMS CANNOT BECOME JUST ANOTHER PLAYGROUND FOR CORPORATE ADVERTISERS.”
Advertising in Dreams
Engineering advertisements into willing consumers’ dreams via audio and video clips, is what corporates are aiming for, in aspects of marketing and advertising. Fortune companies like Microsoft, Sony, Burger King, Xbox and Coors have hitherto sought out the research.
Probably claimed as a successful research, Dream incubation or manipulation, uses images, sounds or other sensory cues to shape the nighttime visions of people.
The research by MIT scientists led on to the development of wearable devices that can have an influential impact on dreams, aiming to deliver a soothing sleep and a productive wake-up to do your day.
Leveraging this, big techs laid a carpet for these researchers to work on dream-related projects. Adam Haar, a cognitive scientist and Ph.D. student at MIT has been contacted by three companies in the past 2 years, including Microsoft and two airlines, he says. He refused them but helped one game-related project, explaining that he was confined on advertising campaigns.
How could dream be manipulated?
Dream incubation has a long history since ancient times. People had even rituals and techniques to intentionally change the content of their dreams, through meditation, painting, praying and drugs in some cases.
Researchers of modern science identifies the state where much of our dreaming uncovers – the rapid eye movement (REM) state – by monitoring brain waves, eye movements and snoring. Incubating specific content to the dreams is done by adding cues like sounds, smells, lights and speech to activate and relate the stimuli. Like playing love music to incubate love dreams.
“People are particularly vulnerable when asleep”, Adam Haar says.
Dream-related probing has its relevance from 1990s, where different researches were working on the concept in different places. Few glimpses of this:
- In 1993, Deirdre Barrett, dream researcher in Harvard University asked 66 college students taking a class on dreams to select a problem of personal or academic relevance, write it down and think about it each night for at least a week before going to bed. At the end of the study, nearly half reported having dreams related to the problem.
- Similarly in 2000, Harvard neuroscientists asked people to play several hours of the computer game Tetris for 3 days, found that slightly more than 60% of the players reported having dreams about the game.
Clashing with Companies
Deirdre Barrett, by invitation of Molson Coors Beverage Company on an online advertising campaign, conducted a study on 18 people, making them to watch a 90-second video featuring flowing waterfalls, cool mountain air and Coors beer right before falling asleep. According to a YouTube video documenting the effort, when the participants awoke from REM sleep, five reported dreaming about Coors beer. However, the study remains unpublished.
Watch the video here!
But intervening this as a real experiment has adverse effects on sleeping cycle of people. Considering the future of this marketing allowance into people’s dreams, a group of 40 dream researchers has pushed back in an online letter calling for the regulation of commercial dream manipulation. Lack of regulations specifically addressing in-dream advertising, companies might one day use smart speakers like Alexa to detect people’s sleep stages and play black sounds that could influence their dreams and behaviors.
“Dream incubation advertising is not some fun gimmick, but a slippery slope with real consequences”
“It is easy to envision a world in which smart speakers – 40 million Americans currently have them in their bedrooms – become instruments of passive, unconscious overnight advertising, with or without our permission”, says the letter of the writers sent to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.
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But, Tore Nielsen, one of the dream researchers of the University of Montreal who hadn’t sign the statement, says the interventions like this won’t work unless the dreamer is aware of the manipulation – and willing to participate, though his colleagues have a “legitimate concern”. Just like in the wearable devices, which you could buy in future and have your favorite dreams on play, many might willingly do encounter the dream incubation. People are crazy!
So, in such cases, would you let any corporates to have influence over your dreams?