This study demonstrates that different methods for measuring emotional experiences in dreams—self-ratings of dreams using emotion rating scales versus external ratings in the form of content analysis of narrative dream reports—can lead to strikingly different results and contradicting conclusions about the emotional content of home dreams. During 3 consecutive weeks, every morning upon awakening, 44 participants (16 men, 28 women, average age 26.9 ± 5.1 years) reported their dreams and rated their emotional experiences in those dreams using the modified Differential Emotions Scale. Two external judges rated emotional experiences in the same 552 (M = 12.55 ± 5.72) home dream reports using the same scale. Comparison of the 2 methods showed that with self-ratings dreams were rated as more emotional and more positive than with external ratings. Moreover, whereas with self-ratings the majority of dreams was rated as positively valenced, with external ratings the majority of dream reports was rated as negatively valenced. Although self- and external ratings converge, at least partially, in the measurement of negative emotional experiences, they diverge greatly in the measurement of positive emotional experiences. On one hand, this discrepancy may result from different biases inherent in the 2 measurement methods highlighting the need to develop better methods for measuring emotional experiences. On the other hand, self- and external ratings may capture different phenomena and should thus be considered complementary and used concurrently. Nevertheless, results suggest that negative emotional experiences can be measured in a more valid and reliable manner than positive emotional experiences. Supplementary results are available at http://www.press.uillinois.edu/journals/ajp/media/sikka/how_you_measure/

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