Got apophenia?


Today is 11/11/11 or 11.11.11 or 11-11-11. It’s lovely to look at. A palindrome even. But there’s nothing special about the date other than its interesting appearance. The apocalypse is not scheduled for today. Thinking otherwise, tempting as it is, means you’ve got apophenia.

Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, according to Wikipedia.

The Skeptic’s Dictionary sheds more light:

Apophenia is the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena. The term was coined by K. Conrad in 1958 (Brugger).

Comes the light. Especially in conjunction with an accompanying quotation:

“….nothing is so alien to the human mind as the idea of randomness.” –John Cohen

It’s an interesting article. At the very least, it puts a name to your nagging desire to find some significance in a date like 11.11.11. Or you could have planned to attach your own significance to the date, like the many couples being married today. Apophenia is a natural bias of the human mind, with apophenia and creativity being two sides of the same coin (paraphrasing a source I cannot relocate). It’s a gift to artists, writers, and photographers, and a major concern for scientists and statisticians trying to distinguish real patterns from imagined ones.

Pareidolia, a type of apophelia, is the tendency people have to “see” or recognize familiar things in a random stimulus (usually visual or auditory) — ships among the clouds, a face on a piece of toast, or a message in a recording played backwards.

If nothing else, 11.11.11 will have been the day I learned a new word and could finally put a name to this particular proclivity of the human mind.

... and that's my two cents