The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Last month I learned about drill bit gauges in a YouTube video and knew I’d get use out of one, so I ordered my own from Amazon. Ever since I’ve been seeing them at estate sales. I started to wonder if they really were just showing up all of a sudden or if I just started “seeing” them.

Then there were several instances at work where we started running into situations that were clearly explained by some articles we’d recenctly read. Sounded like the same type of thing. I figured there had to be some type of phenomenon to explain this, so I Googled and sure enough, it’s a thing.

…you’re experiencing “frequency illusion,” somewhat better known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Stanford linguistics professor Arnold Zwicky coined the former term in 2006 to describe the syndrome in which a concept or thing you just found out about suddenly seems to crop up everywhere. It’s caused, he wrote, by two psychological processes. The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you unconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence.


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