And suddenly, you were there. And there. And over there, too.
Have you ever heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenom? How about the frequency illusion? Most likely you have not, but if the pattern holds, you will now.
Last fall, my wife, son and I made a trip to Ann Arbor to visit our oldest nephew and attend a football game at the University of Michigan (go Blue!). Before heading home, we spent a day exploring Detroit. As an add-on to the Henry Ford Museum, we visited The Rouge, the manufacturing complex where the Ford F-150 pickup truck is made.
You know what happened when we got home? We saw F-150s. Everywhere. All three of us commented on this startling occurrence. Amazing; we visit the factory and then suddenly there is a preponderance of the trucks on the road.
Two things that should have rendered this revelation unremarkable: the F-150 is the best-selling truck in the United States, and perhaps more important, we live in Texas. Trucks are more common here than birds, I suspect. But, did that color our interpretation? Of course not.
Welcome to the Baader-Meinhof phenomenom (or the frequency illusion, if you prefer). It is a little trick that our mind plays on us. Become aware of something, and you will then see it with greater frequency.
This phenomenon is driven by two factors. First, selective attention. When you learn of something new, your subconscious is now on the lookout for it. As in “I only noticed it when I knew I was supposed to notice it.” The second is confirmation bias. Here, each new instance, experience or sighting only reaffirms the remarkable and unique nature of its very presence. Something common becomes increasingly extraordinary step-by-step to your irrational brain. It is this one-two punch that leads to a full-blown cognitive bias.
It is also in our nature to imbue undeserved meaning and significance to these things. That’s fine when it is something as innocuous as vehicular prevalence, but can be detrimental if it compromises your ability to make clear-headed decisions.
If you are holding onto a belief, hypothesis or budding startup idea, you subconsciously seek out validation. And only validation. It’s what your brain is wired to do. And what’s more, you most likely will tune out facts and inputs that contradict it.
Don’t fall into this cognitive trap. Know that in its quest to keep you happy, fulfilled and safe, your brain might inadvertently lead you astray. It doesn’t mean to; it’s just wired that way.
So, when something seems a little too perfect, a little too the-universe-is-telling-me-something, tap pause. Take a step back and re-evaluate with greater focus, intentionality and clarity. Just for a moment.
It might just save you from your irrational self. Or maybe, from buying a truck.
The More I See You by Michael Bublé
This is what happens when you have a family iTunes account: your musical selection becomes a blend of what everyone likes. And sometimes, that means songs that you normally would not have at your immediate disposal shows up in the shuffle. It is not that I think this song – or Michael Bublé in general – is bad. It is just not what I would choose to listen to if given a choice. Maybe ever. But, it is in the collection, so it was fair game to use per the rules of my blog. How is that for a ringing endorsement of this tune?