John Allan Hobson (June 3, 1933 – July 7, 2021) was an American psychiatrist and dream researcher. He was known for his research on rapid eye movement sleep. He was Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School, and Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
John Allan Hobson
|Born||June 3, 1933|
|Died||July 7, 2021(aged 88)|
|Alma mater||Wesleyan University, Harvard Medical School|
|Known for||Research on rapid eye movement sleep, activation-synthesis hypothesis|
|Fields||Psychiatry and dream research|
For the following two years he interned at Bellevue Hospital Center, New York. Then in 1960, he was a resident in Psychiatry at Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston for a year. Hobson then traveled to France where he was a Special Fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health for the Department of Physiology at the University of Lyon.
Upon returning to the United States, he went back to the Psychiatry at Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston until 1966.
He worked in numerous hospitals and research laboratories over the years and became the Director of the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center.
Hobson received four awards for his work:
Hobson's sense of humor was shown in such quips as: “The only known function of sleep is to cure sleepiness".
Hobson's research specialty was quantifying mental events and correlating them with quantified brain events, with special reference to waking, sleeping and dreaming. Hobson's recent work puts forward the idea that during dreaming, different aspects of the conscious mind; Primary consciousness and Secondary consciousness, which are distinct from unified qualia, enter a self-referential interplay where by one constantly creates the environment of another. In this way, secondary consciousness performs the role of the dream environment itself, with the primary consciousness, not usually involved in self-awareness in waking life, becoming the object of conscious identity.
This process transpires for multiple reasons, but the primary one suggested is as a means to reductively simplify and stabilise the ideas learned in waking consciousness to less computationally complex ones, to improve overall system stability and reduce computational entropy, or free energy. Free energy is proposed by Hobson and Friston to correlate with capacity for an organism to experience shock or surprise. Thus, for humans, the process of daily learning becomes unsustainable without a corresponding process to revert from these neuroplastic increases in complexity. Hobson was critical of the idea that there are deep, nonphysiological, or hidden meanings in dreams, calling such notions "the mystique of fortune cookie dream interpretation." He used less confrontational phrasing in his critiques of Freud, and produced much academic work supporting the notion that dreams may contain analytically useful information, just not psychoanalytically useful information in a Freudian sense of the term.
Hobson asserted that dreams require no explicit training to decipher, and are certainly not encrypted to hide their meaning. Instead, as we can observe through dream reports, during REM sleep, it is emotional salience that steps into a directorial role, and the seemingly bizarre connections made within and between the scenes of dreams are trying to reveal rather than disguise whichever type of emotional salience we have associated with new, unpredicted sensory impressions with which we have been bombarded during waking periods. However, dreams may still be enormously useful to understanding our psychological state so long as we ground our interpretations in the hard science of how dreams work at the physiological level. In this sense, the emotions and feelings experienced in a dream can be viewed as the brain's 'best attempt' to communicate information to itself in a fractured state of awareness, as a means of preparing itself for waking consciousness the following day.
By exploring these emotions in an integrated state of wakeful awareness, according to Hobson, it may be possible to gain insight into what our brain was preparing itself for and why.
In addition to his many paid appointments, Hobson was actively involved with four groups relating to his neurological sleep research: the Society Memberships, the Society for Neuroscience, the Society for Sleep Research, the AAAS, and the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), for which he used to be president.
Since 2009, he had been developing his theory of 'proto-consciousness.' According to this theory, dreaming is the most readily available representative of primary or proto-consciousness. Primary or proto-consciousness represents a relatively more primitive stage of consciousness that develops earlier in both evolutionary and ontological terms. In Psychodynamic Neurology (2015), he discussed the little-studied yet crucial role that proto-consciousness plays in overseeing and organizing the intricately complex growth of the individual, from zygote to fetus, through the trimesters in utero, and following parturition, and draws parallels with analogous phases of development in animals such as cats.
See also Dream consciousness
Hobson wrote, co-authored, or co-edited twenty-three books that relate to research on dreaming and waking consciousness and on mental health. The following is a complete list (as of July 2021):
The Harvard sleep researcher Robert Stickgold recalled his former collaborator J. Allan Hobson joking that the only known function of sleep is to cure sleepiness.