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May 16, 2013

Dream social networks take spotlight at upcoming Science on Tap

Richard Schweikert

Richard Schweickert 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University researcher of dreams will give the next Science on Tap talk on the social networks revealed from sleep.

Richard Schweickert, a professor of psychological sciences and a leading researcher in human information processing, memory, mathematical models and dreams, will speak at 6 p.m. May 23 as part of the Science on Tap informal lecture series.

The talk, titled "Social Networks in Dreams," is sponsored by the Purdue Department of Psychological Sciences, the College of Health and Human Sciences and Discovery Park. The event, which is free and open to those 21 and older, is in the upstairs of the Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., in downtown Lafayette.

"We often say we are unconscious when asleep, but most people are aware of mental events throughout a night of sleep. Images flow as people fall asleep and wake up," he said. "Early in the night, when not dreaming, people mull over matters. Later in the night, dramatic images appear in dreams, usually in Rapid Eye Movement sleep."

Occasional bizarre events may make a dream seem haphazard, but regularity appears if dreams are combined from an individual over a year or so, Schweickert said. That regularity appears in links between people. So when two characters appear in a dream together, they are associated somehow in the dreamer's mind. 

"We can make a social network by drawing a link between two characters who appear in a dream together," he said. "The social network for a dreamer has a form similar to a waking life social network, but differs in some ways. A likely interpretation is that regularity arises from consolidation during sleep of the dreamer's memory for people."

Schweickert, who has been at Purdue since 1978, received his doctorate degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, his master's degree in mathematics from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Santa Clara.

He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association for Psychological Science. Schweickert also is a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, Pi Mu Epsilon, the Psychonomic Society and Sigma Xi, and is former president of the Society for Mathematical Psychology.

Science on Tap, led by Purdue graduate students Patrick Dolan and Becca Scott, provides Purdue faculty and collaborating researchers the opportunity to share research activities in an informal setting with presentations that are designed to appeal to a more general audience. Attendance at the monthly event has averaged 80 during the program's first two years. 

Sources: Richard Schweickert, 765-494-7986, swike@psych.purdue.edu

Patrick Dolan, 765-496-9336, pdolan@purdue.edu