I have always been delighted by the experience of suddenly becoming aware of an obscure bit of information or unusual object in the landscape and then finding myself stumbling over it again and again. I thought that this was the world’s way of reminding me that patterns exist everywhere and nothing is a coincidence.
What I didn’t know was that this experience has a name and it’s the ‘Baader- Meinhof Phenomenon’.
The photographs here are an example of my experience of the phenomenon. In the north of Norway I began to see triangles everywhere.
Why this thing is called ‘Baader-Meinhof’ is obscure and probably relates to a member of a group researching the phenomenon who heard a reference to the German urban guerrilla group and, shortly after heard references to them cropping up all over the place.
An alternative name, ‘frequency illusion’, gives a rather more scientific spin suggesting more strongly that your brain has tricked you.
The probable namer of the ‘Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon’ is Arnold Zwicky who, in 2006, suggested that the syndrome in which a concept or a thing you have just become aware of suddenly seems to be everywhere is the result of two processes. The first, ‘selective attention’, triggers when you first become aware of a new or unusual thing or idea. After the first notice, your unconscious keeps an eye out for it resulting in finding it often.
The second process is ‘confirmation bias’ which reassures you that each time you notice the thing means that your initial belief that the thing is suddenly everywhere is proved.
Personally, I prefer to believe that the Universe is showing me patterns.