Difference Between Dream and Imagination

Dream and imagination are two words that are closely related. However, there is a key distinction between them as well. Both these acts, imagination and dream, define mental processes, products of an individual’s mind, state.

However, both of these acts are experimental by characteristic. Both of these acts are not influenced or based on reality. They solely depend upon the creativity and capacity of a person. Thus, we will study the differences between two closely related terms, dream and imagination.

Dream vs Imagination

The main difference between dream and imagination is that dream generally occurs when a person is either sleeping or in a state of extra subconsciousness. On the other hand, a person can imagine stuff only when he or she is in a purely conscious state of mind. Dream and imagination are generally considered as two creative acts. Both dream and imagination can be expressed, and even output or the result can be drawn from them.

Dream vs Imagination

Dreams are unconscious events. Sometimes, they can be inspired and influenced by any physical factor as well. They generally appear when a person is sleeping. Dreams are generally thought of as an act of self-reflection.

What people think, they generally dream. In cases, cases are interpreted, and a sense can be drawn from them as well. While sleeping, not all people who fall asleep dream. After some days, the individuals can not remember the memory of dreams they saw while sleeping.

Imagination is a purely conscious event. It generally occurs when the mind is constantly fed with external and internal inspiration or stimulus. Imagination is generally done in a conscious state of mind.

It is a method of back-to-back experimentation and, sometimes, a type of exercise. The act of imagination is not treated as it is, and often no interest or emphasis is put on it. Imagination can be done by any person and a voluntary act.

The people who imagine stuff can always remember what they imagined.

Comparison Table Between Dream and Imagination

Parameters of ComparisonDreamImagination
Memory retentionPeople who dream forget the memory faster. The memory of imagination does not get erased easily.
Voluntary actDreaming is a non-voluntary act. Imagination is a voluntary act.
InterpretationInterpreted, and sense is drawn from it.It is not treated as it is. No interest or emphasis is given.
TypeType of self-reflection. Type of exercise, method of constant experimentation
State of mindThe subconscious mind, sleeping.The purely conscious state of mind.
Type of eventUnconscious events, inspired and influenced by physical factors.In the conscious event, the mind is active.

What is Dream?

A dream can be considered as a succession of ideas, images, sensations and emotions. These feelings generally occur during certain stages of sleep as an involuntary action in mind.

The function and content of dreams have not understood fully. These topics are religion, philosophy and science throughout the recorded history.

The interpretation of dreams is an attempt to draw meaning and analysing themes from dreams and the hidden message they convey. The study of dreams in a scientific manner is called Oneirology.

When the activity of the brain is high during sleeping, and it closely resembles a state of being awake, dreams occur. They are rapid eye movements.

What is Imagination?

Imagination is the potential to stimulate and produce novel sensations, ideas and objectives in mind. However, there is no sudden involvement of the senses in imagination. It is an act where experiences are formed in a person’s mind.

The formed images can be raw, or they can be the recreations of past happenings. Imagination can be based on fantastic scenes or completely invented by the mind. Sometimes they happen as a personal fantasyland as well.

Imagination is important as it helps in making the applicable knowledge while solving the toughest problems. It Is also fundamental while learning process and integrating experience.

Imagination gradually turns into storytelling that is narrative. Storytelling can be unparalleled when the words are chosen with the utmost care, and they can evoke worlds later.

Main Differences Between Dream and Imagination

  1. Dreams are unconscious events and Sometimes can be inspired and influenced by physical factors as well. On the other hand, imagination is a conscious event. It generally takes place when the mind is fed by internal or external inspiration or stimulus.
  2. Dreams appear when a person is sleeping. On the other hand, imagination happens in a conscious state of mind.
  3. Dreams are generally seen as a type of self-reflection. What you think, you dream. On the other hand, Imagination is a method of constant experimentation or a type of exercise.
  4. Dreams can be interpreted, or a sense can be drawn from them. On the other hand, imagination is not treated as it is, and often no interest is put into it as well.
  5. Not all people who fall asleep get to see dreams while sleeping. However, imagination is a voluntary act, can be done by any person.
  6. Some people can not retain the memory of dream they saw while sleeping, some days after the incident. However, the people imagining stuff can always remember what they were up to.
Difference Between Dream and Imagination


Imagination and dream are often used interchangeably and mistaken for one another. The main reason behind this being, they exist in similar contexts, that is, the mental mind.

Usually, dream and imagination influence each other. Sometimes, they get influenced by the involvement of the five senses by the surrounding environmental factors.

However, there lies a fine line between these two concepts. Imagination is generally an act or potential possessed by a person to form or create mental images, sounds, pictures or anything that is reality-oriented. It often uses inspiration or stimulus to strengthen itself.

On the other hand, when a series of certain sensory abilities accumulate, it forms dreams in a state of the unconscious mind or while sleeping. It is also a type of self-reflection. They are sometimes based on magical, adventurous, sexual, and frightening themes as well.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2868739
  2. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1987-33166-001
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