Ever been in the situation where you just learned something, received an odd bit of information or heard a new word and then, for no apparent reason, that piece of information or word keeps popping up, you keep hearing it again and again. You can’t help but think “that’s weird, I jut heard that”.
These events is know as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, and most of us experience them a few times in our lives, some more than others.
Like synchronicity, which is when you experience meaningful coincidences – like when you are thinking of someone and then they call you on the phone – many feel these occurrences must be destiny or fate, as if they were suppose to happen.
And even when science tries to explain these things away by declaring that the world is complex and filled with frequent coincidences we just don’t want to hear it. But maybe we should pay a little bit more attention.
Our brains are programmed to seek out patterns this helps us learn and remember things. However this also causes our brains to make certain events seem more important than they really are. So when you consider the amount of information we are bombarded with every day, it isn’t really surprising that duplicates occur. And when these intersections happens our brain picks up on them and selects them as the beginning of a sequence, ignoring all the other information swirling around, which is called selective attention.
This means that coincidence is nothing more than a result or perception, our brain is stimulated by them as they are patterns and we then tend to to give them more attention, give them more value.
So when we then hear or see the same information the next day, if feels like more than coincidence, the brain sees it as a continuation of a pattern and we inflate the importance of the information. And this is what Baarder-Meinhof Phenomenon is … coincidences that intersect, creating a sequence in our brain due to selective attention, followed up by another coincidence turning the events into a pattern, which we then perceive as something like fate or destiny.
How the name came about however is a little unclear, but it seems that the person who discovered it named it after the event that triggered it for them – the historic German urban guerrilla group.
A bit of a mouthful but I bet you’ll be hearing more about it now, after reading this article!
The world is unpredictable. Things happen suddenly, unexpectedly. We want to feel we are in control of our own existence. In some ways we are, in some ways we’re not. We are ruled by the forces of chance and coincidence
Author Paul Auster