Exploring the depth of dream experience: The enactive framework and methods for neurophenomenological research

Elizaveta Solomonova, Sha Xin Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Context: Phenomenology and the enactive approach pose a unique challenge to dream research: during sleep one seems to be relatively disconnected from both world and body. Movement and perception, prerequisites for sensorimotor subjectivity, are restricted; the dreamer's experience is turned inwards. In cognitive neurosciences, on the other hand, the generally accepted approach holds that dream formation is a direct result of neural activations in the absence of perception, and dreaming is often equated with "delusions." > Problem: Can enactivism and phenomenology account for the variety of dream experiences? What kinds of experiential and empirical approaches are required in order to probe into dreaming subjectivity? Investigating qualities of perception, sensation, and embodiment in dreams, as well as the relationship between the dream-world and waking-world requires a step away from a delusional or altered-state framework of dream formation and a step toward an enactive integrative approach. > Method: In this article, we will focus on the "depth" of dream experiences, i.e., what is possible in the dream state. Our article is divided into two parts: a theoretical framework for approaching dreaming from an enactive cognition standpoint; and discussion of the role and strategies for experimentation on dreaming. Based on phenomenology and theories of enactivism, we will argue for the primacy of subjectivity and imagination in the formation of lived experience. > Results: We propose that neurophenomenology of dreaming is a nascent discipline that requires rethinking the relative role of third-, first- and second-person methodologies, and that a paradigm shift is required in order to investigate dreaming as a phenomenon on a continuum of conscious phenomena as opposed to a break from or an alteration of consciousness. > Implications: Dream science, as part of the larger enterprise of consciousness and subjectivity studies, can be included in the enactive framework. This implies that dream experiences are neither passively lived nor functionally disconnected from dreamers' world and body. We propose the basis and some concrete strategies for an empirical enactive neurophenomenology of dreaming. We conclude that investigating dream experiences can illuminate qualities of subjective perception and relation to the world, and thus challenge the traditional subject-object juxtaposition. > Constructivist content: This article argues for an interdisciplinary enactive cognitive science approach to dream studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-416
Number of pages10
JournalConstructivist Foundations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2016


  • Consciousness
  • Dreaming
  • Enaction
  • First-person research
  • Neurophenomenology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General
  • Artificial Intelligence


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