What Our Dreams Mean, According to Science.

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer,” Harriet Tubman. 

But where do our dreams really come from? There is actually a real science behind what goes on behind the scenes of the dreams that we create subconsciously while we are resting, and the physiological answer to this science is found within the Hippocampus of the brain.


The hippocampus is a neural center in the limbic system (neural center (including the amygdala, hypothalamus and hippocampus) located below the central hemisphere; associated with emotions and drives (Page 52 Myers & DeWall).) that helps to process explicit memories for storage. 

According to a group of scientists from Germany and Rhode Island, the process of moving memories to different storage centers during sleep, causes dreams to be produced from the experiences from the day that are being transferred to different storage locations. The hippocampus is essentially emptied every night while we sleep, to make room for more information coming the next day. It is believed that while the brain sorts through a day’s worth of experiences, that the brain is able to “steal” parts of these memories and fabricate them into some of our wildest/craziest dreams. 

Dreaming is also thought to be used as a purging method, since we can’t recall 90% of the dreams that our brains create overnight. This thought was also summarized by the famous Francis Crick, who in 1984 said, “We dream to forget,” in his development of his “garbage disposal theory”. 

Many people wonder what the crazy dreams they are having may mean, but there is no exact answer for why our minds create such specific and elusive visions to entertain us while we are in our most vulnerable state: sleep. Since we really don’t know how these images are created, we at least tried to understand how the brain is able to transfer memories to different areas of the brain. That ended up coming down to studying the electrical signals during sleep cycles, especially those signals being passed around in the structures within the limbic system, but mainly, the hippocampus and the neocortex. The neocortex being a section of the cerebral cortex (The most highly developed part of the brain that is associated with thinking, perceiving, producing, and understanding language.) that usually is known to be focused on sight and hearing, but while sleeping, helps to send memories to long-term storage.

While dreaming can be a confusing concept, they actually help the brain problem solve through endless possible experiences, both good and bad. The brain, while asleep, actually continues to work on its problems that it faced while awake. Creating dreams to allow us to “physically” work through the problems, but we only remember a few each night when we wake up the next day. The remembered dreams being the most extreme and bazaar solutions to these issues.

Although there is not a possible way to fully understand the complexity of the human mind, we can certainly try to find answers, and if we can’t, there is still many other things for scientists to discover along the way.




Personality Tests

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

I feel that most of these personality tests were scary accurate. The questions were somewhat confusing to answer at times, but in the end, I feel that the results properly described my personality. The first test’s results were slightly hard for me to understand, just because my results came out to have slight preferences or even marginal to no preference over each of the traits, I found myself answering these questions, mostly unsure because I didn’t understand these questions as a whole.

First Test Results:ESFP

Extravert(19%)  Sensing(3%)  Feeling(19%)  Perceiving(9%)

  • You have slight preference of Extraversion over Introversion (19%)
  • You have marginal or no preference of Sensing over Intuition (3%)
  • You have slight preference of Feeling over Thinking (19%)
  • You have slight preference of Perceiving over Judging (9%)

The second test, I feel properly described me because I feel that my presence does draw people towards me in social settings. I feel that this test could end up being the most credible, but the source of these personality tests doesn’t seem the most credible as a whole. I understood these questions more than those of the first test, so I feel that my answers were more accurate.

Second Test Results: ENFJ – Teachers

The atmosphere is levitated with their presence and their authenticity draws people towards them. They have an impressive imagination and are natural visionaries. 5% of the total population.

After taking the third personality test, I feel that I may have not understood the questions as well because my results came out making me seem like a terribly aggressive, disorganized, and impulsive person, when I know I am not an aggressive person by nature even though I do know I am disorganized and carry impulsive tendencies.

Third Test Results


Factor Descriptions:

Factor I was labelled as Extroversion by the developers of the IPIP-BFFM. Factor I is sometimes given other names, such as Surgency or Positive Emotionality. Individuals who score high on Factor I one are outgoing and social.

Factor II is labeled as Emotional Stability. Factor II is often referred to by other names, such as Neruoticism or Negative Emotionality (in these two cases interpretations are inverted, as Neruoticism and Negative Emotionality can be thought of as the opposite of Emotional Stability).

Factor III is labeled as Agreeableness. A person high in agreeableness is friendly and optimistic. Low scorers are critical and aggressive.

Factor IV is labeled as Conscientiousness. Individuals who score high on this factor are careful and diligent. Low scorers are impulsive and disorganized.

Factor V is labeled as Intellect/Imagination. This factor is also often called Openness to Experience. People who score low tend to be traditional and conventional.

My favorite personality test, the color test, actually became the most accurate in describing each situation I am currently facing. I am not sure how my choice of the order I chose the colors (pink, blue, green, light orange, bright orange, grey, and black) concluded to these results, and I wish there was description on how these results were formulated, but I found that taking each of these tests allowed me to learn more about myself as a whole.

These results were most accurate to my personal observation:

Your Existing Situation

“Creative and emotional, looking for ways to further expand those qualities. Looking for a partner who enjoys the same activities. Seeking adventure and new and unusual activities.”

Your Stress Sources

“Feels empty and isolated from others and wishes to overcome this feeling. Believes life has more to offer her than what she was experienced thus far and doesn’t want to miss out on anything. she purses all her goals and dreams, fearful that any missed opportunity will cause her to miss out on even more. Quickly becomes an expert in any field she pursues and can sometimes come off as overbearing and nosy.”

Your Restrained Characteristics

Current events leave her feeling forced into compromise in order to avoid being cut off from affection or future cooperation.

Giving more than she is getting back and feels misunderstood and unappreciated. Feels she is being forced into compromising and even her close relationships leave her feeling emotional distant.

Giving more than she is getting back and feels misunderstood and unappreciated. Feels she is being forced into compromising and even her close relationships leave her feeling emotional distant.

Current situations have left her feeling overwhelmed and tormented. Needs to avoid further activity or demands and concentrate on relaxing and becoming emotionally sound.

Your Desired Objective: 

Very active imagination and may be prone to fantasies and daydreaming. Always dreaming of interesting and exciting things to happen to her. Is a charmer and wants to be admired for that.

Your Actual Problem:

“Fears she will be held back from achieving things she really wants, leading her to search endlessly for satisfaction and become involved in activities which are pointless.”

Your Actual Problem #2

“Feeling held back and restricted from moving forward, looking for a solution that will give her more freedom and less obstacles.”

Emotional Intelligence

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

Before taking this short and kind of fun test by the Greater Good, I thought I was pretty great, if not amazing at reading emotions of people, but my results showed otherwise. I got a 60 percent, which shows room for improvement, but apparently my score is pretty average. I think this test can be credible because of its affiliation with the University of California Berkley. I found that I was the worst at recognizing the faces that were embarrassed and the ones that were showing emotions directed towards love/ flirtatiousness. So, saying that I am amazing at reading the emotions of people is a pretty incorrect statement about myself, but I am actually alright with admitting that because this kind of skill doesn’t really set a person apart from another in a professional setting. It does help to understand if a first date is going well, or if an interviewer is interested in you for a position you had applied for. Thinking about it more deeply, I am now realizing how the people I tend to spend a lot of time with actually express their emotions through their faces. My boyfriend always has a small smile when he tries to act as if he is mad, even when he isn’t. My best friend Hannah always crinkles the left side of her face when she is confused, and I know that I have a “resting bitch face” when I am just relaxed and/or indifferent about any particular situation. The human face is comprised of many muscles and has many functions due to the structures housed on this specific location of the body, such as: the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.   


--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

I don’t think that I can consider myself an average college student, most of my friends who live on campus don’t typically sleep that much at night, but periodically are able to take a nap throughout their day. As a commuting student, I feel that my sleep schedule is fairly comparable to the average working adult. I wake up at about nine each morning, and once I am awake, I am awake for my entire day. If I have classes, I tend to choose ones that end and begin near each other so that I do not spend time at the school when I don’t have too. I have many responsibilities living on my farm and working at my job part time which makes it difficult for me to find time to stop and take a nap in the middle of my day. I would like to think I am lucky enough to average approximately eight to ten hours of sleep each night, sometimes even more. There are nights where I get less due to me spending time with my friends on campus or getting a later start on my daily barn and horse chores due to spending time with my boyfriend or members of our church. I think a realistic sleep goal would be about six to eight hours a night for a college student but depending on the course load that the student is taking those classes may require more or less time studying, taking away from the amount of time that they are able to spend asleep.

Motivation and Orthorexia Nervosa

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

America is facing many health concerns within its population, obesity being the most concerning, in my opinion after parents and people who choose not to vaccinate. I also believe that those who are facing mental illness and are not seeking treatment is among other great concerns. I feel that only a portion of this criterion is enough to define the boundary between having a mental disorder and if a person is truly eating healthy. As someone who lives with a “gym rat” type parent, I can say that my mother fits the first criterion very closely. I would not call my mother someone with a mental disorder though, I just think she enjoys eating mostly salads so that she can compare the size of her arms to my boyfriend’s, and most of the time he wins but she brags about her veins “popping” more. I think that the criterion coming from this source has good intentions, but I feel that there is room for more definition throughout this website. Although this site chooses to include an excerpt from an original published article about Orthorexia Nervosa, I think an overall summary of the published science would have made me understand more deeply how one can determine if they are suffering from a behavioral disorder or if they are truly just trying to be healthy and prolong their lifespan. 

Synesthesia and Different Ways of Knowing

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

I found this TED talk extremely interesting, as I had never heard of the condition “Synesthesia”. I can only imagine that living with this condition would pose some interesting life challenges, especially in younger individuals. I feel that since individuals living with Synesthesia have activation of multiple senses, children developing an understanding of colors or numbers in early stages of their life may struggle in the early years of their education. I think it is very interesting how Tammet was inspired by Anton Checkhov’s notebook about his perception of the world and how Tammet translated that into how different kinds of perception create different kinds of knowing and understanding the environment that we as humans live in. I also loved that Tammet explained Synesthesia by creating and explaining examples so that people who have not ever experienced this disorder can picture how a suffering individuals go through their day-to-day lives. Tammet also uses the example of the Icelandic word, Hnugginn and asks his audience what emotion they believe the word has. The audience agrees with the general, non-Icelandic population that the word is “happy”, when they are actually wrong. Tammet theorizes that the general population believes this because of how language involves sounds that correspond with the personal experience of the listener. His talk also has sparked my interest in learning more about how words have colors, emotions, shapes and personalities for those who are living with Synesthesia but also if people who are not would be able to train their brains to think in this way.

Why are Some Memories so Strong?

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

Some memories are “stronger” than others, you remember them better than others. Why do I remember my second birthday party so well, but not my eighth? I believe that memories are day to day experiences that the brain takes in while we are awake, and then during the filtering process while we are asleep, they are officially saved in different “files” in the brain. But why are some more easily accessible than others? I feel that during the storage filtering process, dreams that are connected to increased hormone levels or larger changes in mood are ones that become easier to recall in the future. Memories connected to chemical reactions in the brain could be the reason why some appear “stronger” than others. 

To test my theory of chemicals in the brain reacting to experiences during the day being the reason they become stronger memories after a night of sleep, I would first get a random sample of people using dating apps. The number of participants would obviously vary depending on how many people agreed to participate, but hopefully it would be an equal number of participants. In this study, two people would be paired and would be placed in a room together and forced to have a “typical” first date. We would monitor the levels of oxytocin in the brain while the two individuals spoke and got to know each other. After a few weeks, the individuals would be reintroduced to the original room to replicate the first date. Oxytocin levels would be monitored again, only a researcher would be present as a third party, initiating conversation based off of the previous date’s discussions. If the oxytocin levels spike during the reintroduction of the memories originally made on the first date, then it may prove that stronger memories are related to chemical reactions in the brain. 

Exploring the Mind of a Killer

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

A TED Talk by Jim Fallon

I mostly found the title of this ted talk interesting because I for some reason have a strange affixation with reading about serial killers, such as: Ed Gein, Charles Manson, and even Jefferey Dahmer. Resulting in me believing that wanting to know more about how the brains of “psychopathic killers” function and process would supplement my overall interest in them. In this talk, Jim Fallon discussed how in over 70 brain scans of killers and normal people across the different age groups have shown that “psychopathic killers” possess damage in the areas of the brain above the eyes in the orbital cortex and in the anterior part of the frontal lobe. These scans were also analyzed to understand how genetics, and interaction with the environment may have caused their brains to develop differently over time.

            This presenter, in my opinion may be the best source on this subject because of his credentials associated with the University of California, where he is both a neuroscientist and a professor. Jim Fallon is also related to the founder of Cornell University and Lizzie Borden, the suspected axe murderer of her father and stepmother in the late 19thcentury. His family history also offers concern when it comes to “psychopathic killers” like his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather murdering his mother, and the seven other men on his father’s side that all became murderers. I found Jim Fallon’s talk extremely interesting because although the topic is difficult and dark, he made it entertaining and light hearted. I also think his idea to begin preforming brain scans, EEGs, and genetic analysis tests on his entire living family was entertaining since he feels that through the generations it may be time for another “psychopathic killer” to emerge. These tests showed his family why two of the siblings, who didn’t typically get along, were so argumentative: because their brain scans were extremely similar.

            I think an interesting research project to conduct would be analyzing the brain scans of different age groups in stressful situations such as college freshmen studying for their first final exam, and college seniors studying for  their GRES or MCATS. These scans could also be taken at the time of a large childhood change like a move or even at a sad moment like when a family experiences the loss of a beloved pet.  By analyzing these scans, I would like to point out that I don’t think I would prove stress would create killers, but I would allow psychologists to understand how stress, and sadness can affect the outcomes of the situations. These tests would be slightly difficult to conduct just because there wouldn’t be random sampling, and the sampling would be bias because of how specific the people in the study need to be when it comes to fitting the outline of the desired candidates.

Chapter 1- Research Methods

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

Does weaving through traffic actually get you to your destination faster?

In this short clip where MythBusters’ Grant, Kari, and Tory put their driving skills to the test during rush hour, many elements of the scientific method were put to the test. Immediately in the segment of the episode, they began to discuss their topic of interest: traffic’s affect on arriving at a destination. Tory described his method of sticking to one lane, and Grant suggested that he feels changing lanes is a more efficient way to drive on populated roads. Although they did not officially state a hypothesis, they chose to test their question using two identical cars, a destination, and a time of day when they knew the route to their desired location would be crowded: morning rush hour. I believe that their experiment had been thoughtfully planned, but I think there were a few flaws in the original experiment. In the introduction, Grant specifically said he changes lanes while driving “all the time”, but in the execution, he was the passenger to Kari’s driving, even though she seemed to be the outlier in the conversation. I also think that if Kari was given a passenger, then Tory should also have had one, because the experiment was not completed in the same fashion. There were also only two vehicles, doubling that number would have produced more liable results because the road conditions wouldn’t be the same on another day, and only using two cars couldn’t have possibly produced enough data. Overall the experiment has always been one of my most favorite to be executed by MythBusters, but from the clip provided there is sadly, no way of telling how often the experiment was altered to develop a theory about whether or not changing lanes in traffic is a more efficient way of driving, but I will happily stick to my ways of staying in one lane while driving.

A Case Example

--Original published at Jill Distler's Psychology Blog

The Case:

Miguel has been struggling with his coursework lately. He has felt very tired in recent weeks and has found it difficult to focus on his studies. Even though he is always tired, he has trouble falling asleep at night, is irritable during the day, and picks fights with his roommates. He is a bit of a perfectionist and gets mad at himself when he makes even tiny mistakes. It’s gotten to the point where he doubts his ability to do anything right.

By looking closely at Miguel’s symptoms using Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, we can begin to conclude that Miguel’s symptoms may be caused by childhood experiences and unconscious conflicts. He is using defense mechanisms, such as his irritability to cope with his sleep deprivation and also his arguments between roommates and himself. Miguel is also experiencing anal tendencies because of his obsessive compulsiveness about having things be perfect. Not only is he using defense mechanisms, and experiencing anal tendencies, he is also facing depression as a result of the listed. It is possible that his unconscious may be experiencing minor forms of an oedipal complex between himself and his peers causing him to feel as though he needs to defend himself in social environments. I feel that Miguel would benefit greatly from therapy to talk through the issues he is experiencing, along with beginning to analyze his dreams once he is able to fall asleep. Once Miguel is able to get a good night’s sleep, he will start to notice positive changes in his mood.