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Original Research

JEBP. 2021; 0(2): 191-208

Pandemic Dreams are Susceptible to Priming and Unrelated to COVID-19 Exposure

Shawn P. Gallagher, Nicholas A. Incelli.


Surveys that have recruited participants through social media and news websites have led researchers and clinicians to conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic has precipitated a parallel pandemic of nightmares that reflect pandemic-induced psychological distress. Many of these surveys were administered to participants who intentionally opted into research knowing that the investigators were soliciting pandemic dream reports. This investigation surveyed 193 college students who were blind to the purpose of the study to assess the prevalence of pandemic dreams and to determine if the wording of the questions could shape responses. Fewer than half could recall a dream. Reports were brief, susceptible to priming, and unrelated to personal SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 exposure. Although this sample was not truly random, it is probably more representative of the US population than those recruited through thematic websites. Clinicians should be aware of problems inherent in survey research and understand how their words can shape client responses.

Key words: COVID-19, priming, sampling bias, dreams, surveys

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