People Said They Dreamed in Black and White Before the Advent of Colored TV

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People Said They Dreamed in Black and White Before the Advent of Colored TV


For those of us who grew up in the last two decades, it’s nearly impossible to remember a time when our favorite TV shows were not in color. In contrast, those who were around during the times of non-colored TV, black-and-white-colored dreams were as common to them as colored-dreams are to us now. 

According to New Scientist, the world’s most popular weekly science and technology magazine, the incidence of monochromatic dreams was more common before the 1960s when people were exposed to black-and-white TV programming. With a cursory glance back in time, the studies revealed that people reported dreaming this way from 1915 to the 1950s, just before the 60s when nearly 83 percent said they were able to dream in color. 


Black and white scene on television / Photo by: David Robson via New Scientist


But nature and the world weren’t in black and white then, only TV programming. So what could have caused these reports to turn out the way they did? 

Researchers tracked people’s dreams during the transition from black-and-white TV to colored ones. The results may have been drawn from them but it was very confusing at the time since one study asked people to write about what they dreamed around the middle of the day, which could have just made the subjects forget “color elements to their dreams and assumed they were grayscale.” 

Later research prompted more people to write dream journals the exact time they woke up. 


Sleep / Photo by: Aleksandr Davydov via 123RF


So, what is the consensus? Eva Murzyn, a researcher from the University of Dundee, UK, was determined to find out about this phenomenon, and so began her own research. 

First, Murzyn provided 60 subjects with questionnaires. Half of the participants were under 25, the other half were over 55. The questionnaire asked them to detail their childhood exposure to TV and the color of their dreams, and what she found was surprisingly not very far-removed from very early studies. 

Murzyn reported that the 55-and-up group of people who only had access to black-and-white programming said that they dreamt more in monochrome than the other age groups with access to colored TV. They reported dreaming this way “roughly a quarter of the time.” 

“Only 4.4 percent of the under-25s’ dreams were black and white. The over-55s who’d had access to color TV and film during their childhood also reported a very low proportion of just 7.3 percent,” Murzyn’s findings read.


TV sets / Photo by: Jakkapan Jabjainai via 123RF




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