I’m Thinking Your Thoughts While I Sleep: Sense of Agency and
Ownership Over Dream Thought
Melanie G. Rosen
To what extent do we have a sense of agency over our thoughts while we dream? Dreamers can experience a variety of interesting alterations to the sense of agency that are quite distinct from everyday, waking experience. In this article I analyze these alterations with a focus on distinguishing between diminished sense of agency and other cognitive features such as metacognition, confabulation, and attention. I argue that some dream reports highlight 2 interesting commonalities with symptoms that occur in schizophrenia: thought insertion (TI) and auditory hallucination (AH). An empirically informed philosophical investigation of the sense of agency in sleep has the potential to further our understanding of TI and AH in schizophrenia through the analysis of similar experiences that occur in dreams. Although dream reports indicate that both TI and AH occur in dreams, TI is comparatively rare, whereas TI is common in patients with schizophrenia. I propose 2 speculative lines of explanation for the rarity of TI in dreams: (a) cognitive differences between symptoms that occur in schizophrenia and dream experiences and (b) problems and ambiguities inherent in dream reporting. Analysis of dream reports reveals that it is often unclear whether ‘hearing voices’ indicates an experience of sound or thought. I propose that dream reports could be disambiguated given facilitative experimental methods, which could be implemented in future research.