What Is It Called When You Start Seeing Something Over And Over?

My grandfather has always dreamt of owning a Cadillac. Recently he has started sharing with me the style, the color and the model he would like, if he ever does decide to make the purchase.

He would like a SRX, Cadillac’s mid-size luxury crossover. I am not a car guy, and my pay grade has never made buying a Cadillac a serious option, so I was not familiar with the SRX. When I told this to my grandfather, he was excited to show me pictures and ads online.

We looked at a bunch of pictures of the car and then a funny thing happened…I started noticing Cadillac SRXs everywhere on the road. I would spot one on the way to the grocery store. Another while getting gas. It felt like every time I was in the car, I drove next to one.

Was there a recently surge in Cadillac SRX sales that just so happened to coincide with my grandfather showing me pictures of the car? Doubtful.

So why is this happening, and does it have a name? Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

What is it Called When You Learn About Something and Then See it Everywhere?

The feeling I am experiencing is called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Sometimes known as frequency illusion or recency illusion, this phenomenon occurs when something you have just learned about or discovered starts showing up constantly. It feels like it happens out of nowhere and that everyone it talking about it.

That isn’t entirely true though. Basically what is happening is that we are just noticing it more. This happens because our brains get excited when we learn something new, and because we want to hold on to the feeling, we subconsciously start to look for that new thing everywhere. And after we see it once or twice, confirmation bias kicks in and we convince ourselves that we are seeing it everywhere we go.

The phenomenon’s name is a little odd. Rather than being named after the person who discovered it, it is  named for a militant West German terrorist group, active in the 1970s. In 1994, a visitor on The St. Paul Minnesota Pioneer Press online commenting board came up with the name after randomly hearing two references to Baader-Meinhof within 24 hours.

Source: How Stuff Works