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Calvin S. Hall

Calvin Springer Hall, Jr. (January 18, 1909–April 4, 1985[1]), commonly known as Calvin S. Hall, was an American psychologist who studied in the field of dream interpretation and analysis. He began his systematic research on dreams in the 1940s, and from there he wrote many books, A Primer of Freudian Psychology and A Primer of Jungian Psychology being the best known, and developed the Quantitative Coding System.[2] Hall's work on temperament and behavior genetics is now only a historical footnote,[3] but was an aid to scientific studies and theories of today.


Hall was born in Seattle, Washington. He first studied psychology at the University of Washington as an undergraduate, working with a well-known behaviorist, Edwin Guthrie. He transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, his senior year because of his opposition of the ROTC course required at Washington. At Berkeley he studied with a purposive behaviorist, Edward Tolman, and received his BA in 1930, continuing on there as a graduate student with Tolman and Robert Tryon, earning his PhD in 1933.[3]


After receiving his PhD, Hall then taught for three years at the University of Oregon as an assistant professor. Because of his growing research reputation, he was appointed departmental chair and professor in psychology in 1937 at Western Reserve University. He held these positions for the next 20 years. During this time he began the process of switching his research emphasis to dream content, the area for which he is best known. Other universities he taught at were Syracuse University (1957–59), the University of Miami (1959–60), and Catholic University in Nigmegen, Netherlands (as a Fulbright scholar in 1960-61). From 1961 to 1965, Hall studied at his Institute of Dream Research in Miami and established the similarity in dream content throughout the night by studying dreams collected in the dream laboratory. He and Robert Van de Castle, during this time, developed a comprehensive coding system that revolutionized the objective study of dream content.[3] In his empirical work, he showed that dreams between people across the world are more similar than they are different.[3]


From 1935 to 1975, Hall was "one of the most creative and visible psychologists in the United States."[3] He worked on the "inheritance of emotionality in rats and his discovery that a single dominant gene led to acoustical traumas in one inbred strain of mice".[3] With this work, he made major contributions, early in is career, to the study of temperament and behavior genetics. His chapter in the "Handbook of Experimental Psychology" (1951) is considered "one of the founding statements of modern behavior genetics".[3]

Quantitative coding system

In the 1940s, Hall began three decades of systematic work on dreams that led to many theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions. This work extended his mentor Tryon's earlier rat demonstration that they could be bred to do well or poorly in learning a maze. Hall's early work on dreams was based on reports written anonymously by college students. However, Hall soon was collecting reports from a plethora of types of children, older adults, people in other parts of the world, and those who kept dream diaries. He had over 50,000 dream reports when he died. He began his work with thematic analyses of 15 to 25 dreams from each person, looking for obvious patterns, but soon developed a quantitative coding system that divided dream content into categories such as settings, objects, characters, interactions, emotions, misfortunes, and several others. "Hall's empirical work shows the dreams of groups of people from all over the world are more similar than they are different, although there are variations in terms of cultural differences. At the same time, he found large individual differences in the frequency of dream elements; these differences correspond with waking concerns, emotional preoccupations, and interests, suggesting what Hall called 'continuity' between dream content and waking thought."[3] His work with dream diaries showed a consistency in dream content, although there were some changes consistent with changes in the dreamers' waking lives.[4]


In 1953, Hall developed a cognitive theory of dreams. This theory states "dreams express 'conceptions' of self, family members, friends, and social environment. They reveal such conceptions as 'weak,' 'assertive,' 'unloved,' 'domineering,' and 'hostile'."[3] Hall also developed a metaphoric theory of dream symbolism. He developed this theory through metaphoric expressions appearing in slang and poetry, with an emphasis on metaphors by George Lakoff and other cognitive linguists.[3] Hall believed and argued that "a dream was simply a thought or sequence of thoughts that occurred during sleep, and that dream images are visual representations of personal conceptions". In other words, "dreams reflect the dreamer's unconscious self-conception which often does not at all resemble our trumped up and distorted self-portraits' by which we fool ourselves in waking life; dreams mirror the self."[5] For example, if one has a dream of being attacked by friends, this may be a manifestation of fear of friendship.[6] This is only true of latent dream content (the underlying meaning of the dream),[7] not manifest dream content (the actual literal subject-matter of the dream).[7] "The manifest dream content is not a true reflection of the self but is a distortion of oneself and one's wishes."[5] One may only infer what a dream means because there is more than one way to do something, or in other words, more than one meaning of a dream.[6] Hall gathered all this information from studying several thousand dreams of 'normal' people from which he did a careful comparative statistical study.[5]

Written works

Year Title Subject
1938 "The Inheritance of Emotionality," Sigma Xi Quarterly, 26, 17-27 animal temperament
1947 "Genetic Differences in Fatal Audiogenetic Seizures between Two Inbred Strains of House Mice," Journal of Heredity, 38, 2-6 genetic basis of audiogenetic seizures in mice
1949 "The Genetics of Audiogenetic Seizures in the House Mouse," Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 42, 58-63 genetic basis of audiogenetic seizures in mice
1951 "The Genetics of Behavior," The Handbook of Experimental Psychology, edited by S. S. Stevens temperament and genetics
1947 "Diagnosing Personality by the Analysis of Dreams," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 42, 68-79 first important article on dreams
1951 "What People Dream About," Scientific American, 184, 60-63 first report of quantitative findings
1951 Handbook of Experimental Psychology Hall was the author of one chapter
1953 "A Cognitive Theory of Dreams," Journal of General Psychology, 49, 273-282 highly original theoretical article on dreams
1953 The Meaning of Dreams
1953 "A Cognitive Theory of Dream Symbols," Journal of General Psychology, 48, 169-186 metaphoric theory of dream symbols
1954 A Primer of Freudian Psychology
1957 Theories of Personality
1966 The Content Analysis of Dreams coding system co-authored with Robert Van de Castle
1970 Dreams, Life, and Literature Kafka
1971 Personality of a Child Molester the child molester
1972 The Individual and His Dreams
1973 A Primer of Jungian Psychology
1994 Our Dreaming Mind, by Robert Van de Castle overview of Hall's work by his collaborator
1996 Finding Meaning in Dreams: A Quantitative Approach all reliable findings with the Hall/Van de Castle coding system by G. William Domhoff
1987 "Calvin Springer Hall (1909-1985)," American Psychologist, 42, 185 appreciation of Hall and his work by long-time friend and co-author, Gardner Lindzey.



According to colleagues at the University of California in Santa Cruz, Hall went into semi-retirement in 1966, and "he indulged his love of great literature, classical music, and opera, took daily walks and bike rides along the ocean, and tended his flower garden."[3] His wife, Irene Hannah Sanborn, from whom he had separated, died before him. He died in Santa Cruz County, California in 1985 at the age of 76 of cancer. [1]His only child, Dovre Hall Busch, survived him.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1, accessed January 10, 2015; cites as sources the following: (1), California Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line] (Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2000.), Calvin Springer Hall. [Birth information as provided on record of death]. Original data: State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics. (2), Washington Births, 1907-1919 [database on-line] (Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2002.) Original data: Washington State Department of Health. Washington State Births 1907-1919. Washington, USA: Department of Health. (3), California Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line] (Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2000.), Calvin Springer Hall. Original data: State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics. (4)Mrs. Charles S. Sanborn obituary, Lewiston Daily Sun (Lewiston, Maine), July 27, 1950, p. 2 (5) Mrs. P.H. Caldwell obituary, Boston Herald (Boston, Mass.) October 14, 1952, p. 21.
  2. Calvin S. Hall meaning | Dream Dictionary. Retrieved on 25 October 2011.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 Adam Schneider and G. William Domhoff. "Calvin Hall". Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Hall, C. S. (1953). "A cognitive theory of dream symbols". The Journal of General Psychology 48: 169–186. doi:10.1080/00221309.1953.9920189 Retrieved from 25 October 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 The Meaning of Dreams: By Calvin S. Hall. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953. 244 pp. PEP Web. Retrieved on 25 October 2011.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hall, C. S. (1953). "A cognitive theory of dreams". The Journal of General Psychology 49: 273-282. doi:10.1080/00221309.1953.9710091. Abridged version in M. F. DeMartino (Ed.). (1959). Dreams and Personality Dynamics (pp. 123-134). Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas. Retrieved from 30 December 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Latent Content - What Is Latent Content. (17 June 2010). Retrieved on 25 October 2011.

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