The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

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Expand view Topic review: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Re: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Post by Troll2rocks » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:28 pm

Good post spock :cheers:

Re: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Post by 99socks » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:19 pm

I can see how some people can become fixated on one thing, like 1111 or 1234...

For me at least, it's a little different. I can try to submit something on the web, and be asked to enter in those funny words, and get the word "kakistocracy." I can sit there and think, wow, I haven't heard that in over 20 years... And then suddenly, hear someone say it in the supermarket later that day, and again a few days later somewhere else. I'm not attracted to just one word or symbol at a time... It's kinda like it's swarming around me all the time, and it's always about considerably uncommon things (which makes it stand out more).... Kakistocracy, weasels, hammertoes, sickles, and Queen Ann's lace. What a modern, suburban-American combo! :cheers:

Re: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Post by Spock » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:12 pm

I was thinking about my 1234, 234 mental fuckery. A couple of days ago I stopped at the convenience store and picked up some lemon packets for my water, just a handful of them to keep on hand, didn't count them.

The total amount came to $2.34. So as I was taking a picture of it to text to my wife, I noticed my "miles to empty" on my odometer and it was 324 (which to my dyslexic self may as well be the same thing).

Re: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Post by 99socks » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:06 pm

Yeah, it gets progressively worse and worse as you get older.... lol...

Try being a linguist and having a brain that is hardwired to its core to recognize patterns in language...!

30x a day.

Anyways, glad I'm nowhere near pareidolia. :mrgreen:

Re: The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Post by Andgene » Fri Nov 09, 2012 4:02 pm

Haha... talking about coincidences, how about this one... just two days ago, i had a conversation with my friend regarding exactly what this topic is talking about, only we didnt know it had a name. This tends to happen quet often for a while now.

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Post by Spock » Fri Nov 09, 2012 2:59 pm


You may have heard about Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon before. In fact, you probably learned about it for the first time very recently. If not, then you just might hear about it again very soon. Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where one happens upon some obscure piece of information– often an unfamiliar word or name– and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly. Anytime the phrase “That’s so weird, I just heard about that the other day” would be appropriate, the utterer is hip-deep in Baader-Meinhof.

Most people seem to have experienced the phenomenon at least a few times in their lives, and many people encounter it with such regularity that they anticipate it upon the introduction of new information. But what is the underlying cause? Is there some hidden meaning behind Baader-Meinhof events?

The phenomenon bears some similarity to synchronicity, which is the experience of having a highly meaningful coincidence… such as having someone telephone you while you are thinking about them. Both phenomena invoke a feeling of mild surprise, and cause one to ponder the odds of such an intersection. Both smack of destiny, as though the events were supposed to occur in just that arrangement… as though we’re witnessing yet another domino tip over in a chain of dominoes beyond our reckoning.

Despite science’s cries that a world as complex as ours invites frequent coincidences, observation tells us that such an explanation is inadequate. Observation shows us that Baader-Meinhof strikes with blurring accuracy, and too frequently to be explained away so easily. But over the centuries, observation has also shown us that observation itself is highly flawed, and not to be trusted.

The reason for this is our brains’ prejudice towards patterns. Our brains are fantastic pattern recognition engines, a characteristic which is highly useful for learning, but it does cause the brain to lend excessive importance to unremarkable events. Considering how many words, names, and ideas a person is exposed to in any given day, it is unsurprising that we sometimes encounter the same information again within a short time. When that occasional intersection occurs, the brain promotes the information because the two instances make up the beginnings of a sequence. What we fail to notice is the hundreds or thousands of pieces of information which aren’t repeated, because they do not conform to an interesting pattern. This tendency to ignore the “uninteresting” data is an example of selective attention.

In point of fact, coincidences themselves are usually just an artifact of perception. We humans tend to underestimate the probability of coinciding events, so our expectations are at odds with reality. And non-coincidental events do not grab our attention with anywhere near the same intensity, because coincidences are patterns, and the brain actually stimulates us for successfully detecting patterns… hence their inflated value. In short, patterns are habit-forming.

But when we hear a word or name which we just learned the previous day, it often feels like more than a mere coincidence. This is because Baader-Meinhof is amplified by the recency effect, a cognitive bias that inflates the importance of recent stimuli or observations. This increases the chances of being more aware of the subject when we encounter it again in the near future.

How the phenomenon came to be known as “Baader-Meinhof” is uncertain. It seems likely that some individual learned of the existence of the historic German urban guerrilla group which went by that name, and then heard the name again soon afterwards. This plucky wordsmith may then have named the phenomenon after the very subject which triggered it. But it is certainly a mouthful; a shorter name might have more hope of penetrating the lexicon.

However it came to be known by such a name, it is clear that Baader-Meinhof is yet another charming fantasy whose magic is diluted by stick-in-the-mud science and its sinister cohort: facts. But if you’ve never heard of the phenomenon before, be sure to watch for it in the next few days… brain stimulation is nice.