The Department of Defense is stretching its budget into a strange new combination of science and psychology — dream interpretation.
The department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding the work of two Indiana University professors using network science to study similarities in dreams shared by English, Arabic and Chinese dreamers, Medium reports.
Results will be aimed at establishing cross-cultural links shared between different groups of people across the globe.
Network science has become an incredibly useful tool in research projects like Indiana’s, thanks to the emerge of online social media. The science has uncovered global cultural links in ancient literature, myths, recipe ingredients, brain regional connectivity, biomolecules and disease.
Dreams have become an area of research budding with analyzable information thanks to the wide availability of dream interpretation websites, with the University of California’s Dreambank database describing some 1,400 similar symbols shared by some 20,000 English dream reports alone. Arabic and Chinese websites have similar databases, all of which share common themes like “love,” “quarrel” or “voices.”
Professors Onur Varol and Filippo Menczer began by analyzing similarities across global dream interpretation databases and created three networks that link dream symbols in English, Arabic and Chinese, establishing communities of densely linked symbols.
For example, symbols for “mailman,” “message” and “voices” commonly represent warnings, while “guard,” “hiding” and “raincoat” represent protection.
“We built a multicultural dream network by identifying interconnections between language layers,” Varol and Menczer said explaining how they compared different structures across languages and networks to find common threads. ”These results indicate that … symbols tend to be connected to the same neighbors across languages.”
The two plan to continue their research by analyzing how often symbols appear in dreams together to get a better understanding of the associations between them, and use advances made in language processing to compare and get a better grasp of the concepts and sentiments behind words and symbols.
It’s unclear how the research could or would be used by DARPA, which specifically develops revolutionary technologies for national security purposes, or the Defense Department as a whole.