I was in the market for a new car and was spending quite a bit of time going through automotive websites and resellers. Looking up reviews and doing regular research anyone would do before taking an informed decision. So one day after work, I took my wife to see the Ford Explorer, as we saw the car, she exclaimed: “I have never seen this car before”. And I found myself telling her “You’ll definitely be seeing it now”. As we left the showroom, voila it was there. Ford Explorer a car that she had never seen or heard of before, kept popping up everywhere. Parked on the curb, waiting next to us at the traffic light, driving past us on the street, the For Explorer was everywhere. My wife was perplexed. Was it destiny?

But is it really destiny? Like when we learn a new word, and then find it in the newspaper, on our favorite blog. Or when we notice a new shade of red and then see it everywhere from couches to bags to outfits? Quite naturally one would feel it’s happening for a reason.

Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

If you have experienced this weird feeling of coincidence, then you, my friend are part of a rare breed of highly intellectual… well not really. As a matter of fact, this happens to all of us and the eerie phenomenon has a name – “The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon”, or the more scientific “Frequency Illusion”.

Do things happen for a reason?

Experiencing this eerie coincidence, one would forgive someone to believe that there is a greater synchronicity at work in the world. Perhaps it’s an artifact of the feeling that everything happens for a “reason” because we feel the coincidence is just too astronomically unlikely. But of course, the truth is that most, bordering on all things, don’t happen for a “reason”, despite our intuition that they do. And yet it is the intuition that gets activated in The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon which gives us an interesting look into the machinery of the mind.

The Super-hero called our Brain

You see our brains are essentially pattern recognizing superheroes. Able to find meaning in countless pieces of data, whether it’s our ability to see words in a newspaper, a specific color among thousands or work out the fine mathematics of the laws of the universe. Like when my 2-year-old daughter learns something new, her little brain works in overdrive to identify that specific thing everywhere in her environment. So much so that she surprises us by finding it in places that we would never even imagine it to be. Her recent fascination with clocks (“tick tock” in her limited vocabulary) led to us discover an old forgotten alarm clock, the existence of which we had forgotten for months.

This happens to all of us. It is because when we learn something new, the stimuli which excite our brains,  get excited and start looking for similar stimuli around us to identify a pattern. In other words, my wife might have seen the Ford Explorer a number of times in her life, but her brain just wasn’t interested.

This is how it works!

First, our brains inflate the importance of a recent discovery that we have made. Then when we begin to notice it around us, we tend to believe that we are magically seeing this new thing all over the place. This feeling of coincidence begs us to start actively searching for more examples, and summon more of that sweet heartening magic.

We see things we want to see.

But what’s more interesting about this phenomenon are all the patterns that are zipping by our day that we don’t register at all. The Baader-Meinhoff illusion proves that we only see the things that we’re looking out for, and we can, in fact, control our what we see much more than what we think. It also goes to show how ignorance can be maintained through a lack of active learning, the more you prime your mind by reading and writing to see new patterns, the more reality will unfold before you.

Training your brain to see the good.

Another example that cements this theory can be found in a campaign that Alnowair is running right now called #onemillionsmileskuwait. The campaign is about finding smiles in our environment by drawing curved lines under objects that resemble eyes. The goal is to find one million smiles, but the idea behind the campaign is to make people aware of the positives around us. Pausing for a moment and being mindful of the good.

Interestingly #onemillionsmileskuwait started off as an inside joke, where the team members at Alnowair would send pictures of smiles made out of random things around them. Soon, everyone who played the game was seeing eye shaped objects all over the place, so much so that it made the campaign viral.

We can end this article by saying that you will definitely be hearing or reading about the Baader Meinhof Phenomenon sooner rather than later. But it doesn’t end there because this blog was also to make you notice the car Ford Explorer. Enjoy.