Why didn't I see all these Volvos before I bought one?
February 15, 2008 6:21 AM   Subscribe

You buy a Volvo, and suddenly you start noticing every Volvo on the road.

I had heard this referred to as "The Volvo Effect" or "The Volvo Phenomenon." Of course, it's not specific to that brand or even to cars. What I'm looking for is the term that describes adding something new to your life (e.g., buying a car) and suddenly being more aware of that thing in the world around you.
posted by DWRoelands to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Confirmation Bias?

aka about 1 in 20 AskMe questions.
posted by GuyZero at 6:32 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This question is common.
posted by knave at 6:41 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Apologies for asking something so common. I searched on "Volvo Effect" and "Volvo Phenomenon" before posting.
posted by DWRoelands at 6:53 AM on February 15, 2008

This type of thing falls could under Confirmation Bias, but Confirmation Bias is more broad then this. For one thing, lots of people notice this "effect" of learning about something and then seeing it everywhere.

Confirmation Biased just mens that you notice things that confirm what you already believe. Confirmation Bias isn't something you "feel" or notice. Confirmation Bias is something that happens all the time without you noticing it.
posted by delmoi at 7:01 AM on February 15, 2008

It's like when you post a question, and the notice all the other posted questions that look the same.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 7:29 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Social scientists sometimes use the term 'salience' for this phenomenon. You see 10 ads for window replacements every day, but you don't notice them. They you break a window, and all you see is these ads. You see Volvos (or in my case Hyundais) every day, but don't notice them. Then you buy one, and then every same-model car that drives past you stands out like it was painted neon orange.
posted by eaglehound at 7:36 AM on February 15, 2008

Slightly related to the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.
posted by LionIndex at 8:06 AM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I believe that this is not confirmation bias so much as the recency effect.
posted by Kattullus at 8:24 AM on February 15, 2008

I see LionIndex actually got there before me. I didn't know this, but another name for the recency effect is the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Of course, now I'll see and hear this mentioned all the time.
posted by Kattullus at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2008

According to this, the auto-industry term for this is badgeraderie.
posted by TedW at 8:49 AM on February 15, 2008

When I was a kid I did a book report on the book "Psycho-Cybernetics" that described this exact effect as your "RAS" as work. A google says this refers to the "Reticular Activation System" Ever since I've always referred to this as "my RAS is working overtime"

That's pretty much the only thing I remember about that book.
posted by chocolate_butch at 9:29 AM on February 15, 2008

The Volvo effect is not this. The Volvo effect refers to volvo drivers, knowing that they are driving a very safe car, actually driving less safely. In other words the drivers negatively adjust their behavior to compensate for the perceived superlative safety of their car.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:14 AM on February 15, 2008

This is the street version of the Cocktail Party Effect.

In psychology, Cocktail Party Effect describes the situation where you're at a party with many people talking and you tune most of it out. Somebody says your name though, and suddenly you hear that conversation.

The same happens on the road. You identify with the type of vehicle you drive. I'm a Honda man. You're a Volvo person. I see Honda people. You see Volvo people. They rise from the white noise because you've identified with them.
posted by SlyBevel at 11:57 AM on February 15, 2008

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