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May 18, 2008 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Is there a name for this phenomenon? Like confirmation bias, but with a positive connotation.

We talk about confirmation bias on Metafilter all the time, and it's an extremely useful phrase, but I'm looking for a way to describe a similar phenomenon that differs primarily in mood. For instance, let's say you learn about fractals for the first time, and then you begin to notice fractals in the trees around you, in the weave of your rug, everywhere. What do you call that? Confirmation bias as it applies to scientific research implies a kind of closed-mindedness, but this is more of an opening of the mind.

If there's not an exact term, I'll also accept examples from art or popular culture...anything that comes to mind!
posted by Mender to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's the Baader Meinhof phenomenon! :)
posted by johngoren at 8:38 PM on May 18, 2008 [5 favorites]

posted by sockpup at 8:43 PM on May 18, 2008

Though popular at MetaFilter and Damn Interesting, there isn't much out there that calls this anything. It does invoke the recency effect (where things learnt recently are better recalled) and generalized pattern recognition, as well as elements of gestalt psychology, where we "recognize" the whole of something based on only having awareness of a small number of its parts.

Basically, our brains are trained to remember things in functional bunches, and the application of language simply amplifies this tendency. Your unconscious brain is working away even when you're occupied with other tasks and can alert you to things you previously wouldn't have been aware of.
posted by dhartung at 9:14 PM on May 18, 2008

Not that answers your question in particular, but I always thought of that as the 'Honda phenomenon', specifically because the first time I ever really consciously noticed it, was after my parents bought a Honda. Before we had a Honda, they were just, you know, some car that some people drove. After we bought a Honda they were *everywhere*. Either the local Honda dealer had one hell of a good day the day we bought our car, or we were suddenly way more aware of Hondas.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:34 PM on May 18, 2008

posted by rokusan at 9:39 PM on May 18, 2008

'Synchronicity' is the word I would use for this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:41 PM on May 18, 2008

Response by poster: All good answers, thank you!
posted by Mender at 10:30 PM on May 18, 2008

I've always thought of it as "The U-Haul Effect," in that it's only when you're driving a U-Haul truck that you realize how many U-Haul trucks there are on the road.
posted by lore at 10:33 PM on May 18, 2008

Heightened awareness?
posted by Happy Dave at 11:13 PM on May 18, 2008

posted by crocomancer at 4:13 AM on May 19, 2008

+1 Baader-Meinhof effect.
posted by adamrice at 6:38 AM on May 19, 2008

This happened to me the other day. I encountered the word Limned in the jacket blurb of three different books published by three different authors. I considered it synchronicity and bought none of the books as any publisher dumb enough to use such an uncommon word in a promotional paragraph can't really know good writing, right?
posted by dobbs at 7:24 AM on May 19, 2008

nthing Syncronicity
posted by Carillon at 7:43 AM on May 19, 2008

I would argue against Baader-Meinhof or Synchronicity. Both of these (in my mind, at least) imply that there are suddenly and coincidentally more occurrences of the phenomenon occurring around you. Your fractal example, on the other hand, implies that you're just noticing things that were already there.

Here are previous metafilter discussions of baader-meinhof/synchronicity/etc. that may help confirm or deny whether these are the right term for what you're talking about: 1, 2, 3.

I don't really have any alternatives to offer, but you might find a term you like in wikipedia's Congitive Biases entry.
posted by vytae at 8:45 AM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by languagehat at 8:51 AM on May 19, 2008

It's not quite right, but what you're describing seems to bear some relation to the availability heuristic.
posted by staggernation at 9:24 AM on May 19, 2008

Hey, I just realized I used the word "heuristics" in an AskMe answer not 10 minutes ago. Freaky!
posted by staggernation at 9:27 AM on May 19, 2008

Response by poster: Ah-ha, I see there has been some AskMe research conducted on this subject before. Seems like I was missing the necessary search terms. Vytae, thank you for the links.

I agree that none of these terms are exactly scratch-the-itch right, although Baader Meinhof and Diegogarcity do come close. I was hoping for something with a more positive, even euphoric connotation. But, now I have some very good leads for investigating the subject.
posted by Mender at 9:36 AM on May 19, 2008

Richard Dawkins talks about this in Unweaving the Rainbow----not taking into account all of the times something is NOT coincidental...but I don't think he names it. Other than: overestimating coincidence for chance.
posted by hulahulagirl at 8:31 PM on May 19, 2008

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