So nutjobism has a clinical name -

Apophenia -

Apophenia is the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena. The term was coined by K. Conrad in 1958 (Brugger).
[...]
In statistics, apophenia is called a Type I error, seeing patterns where none, in fact, exist. It is highly probable that the apparent significance of many unusual experiences and phenomena are due to apophenia, e.g., ghosts and hauntings, EVP, numerology, the Bible code, anomalous cognition, ganzfeld "hits", most forms of divination, the prophecies of Nostradamus, remote viewing, and a host of other paranormal and supernatural experiences and phenomena.


Lies and distortions about apophenia can also be found in Wiki.

Given that Conrad conjectured apophenia half a century ago, I doubt he would have been knee deep in any of the contemporary loon phenomena - 9/11 truthers, antivaxxers or Oathkeeper/Teabagger paranoids et al. But I think he'd have a field day with some of todays subjects.

Tags: apophenia, kooks, loons, lunes, nutjobs, paranormal, quacks, supernatural, superstition

Views: 50

Replies to This Discussion

It's a pity we only have a visual image of this manifestation of Christ. I'd like to hear words of wisdom from his mouth.
Pffft! (And that's what I think of them, too!) ;-)
That's Christ? At first I thought it was a Georgia O'Keefe.
Interesting article, Felch.

Brugger's research indicates that high levels of dopamine affect the propensity to find meaning, patterns, and significance where there is none, and that this propensity is related to a tendency to believe in the paranormal.
More interesting when you consider that drugs like cannabis and LSD also cause dopamine surges - and most of us either know delirious thinking first hand or have been subjected to the ramblings of a stoner at some point.
I'm going to start telling the two I know "You were high when you first learned that. Don't you think you should take it with a grain of salt?"
Just tell them they put the "dope" in "dopamine".
Robert Anton Wilson made this phenomenon into literature.
It might be Shermer's, too, but I remember the example of "rustling in the grass". The wind? Or a snake? Sometimes false positives are evolutionarily advantageous.,
I think the difference between this type of evolutionary advantage to pattern seeking is different to apophenia. The latter is no doubt a manifestation the former, but it seems to me that apophenia describes the phenomenon when the patterns are deduced in the face of logic or reason.

In your sabre-tooth tiger example, the pattern recognition is based on experience. Avoiding that corner is a sensible decision to make based on that pattern. Developing a cautious approach to similar corners also makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective.

Conspiracy-mongers are using the same basic pattern seeking and recognition skills, but it's all based on something that's not real, and has no basis in reality. The non-reality and irrationality is what would tip it over in to apophenia. There is some rational basis to it. It's the unrelatedness of the perceived phenomena in the definition that marks the difference.
I agree with you three previous posters. Of course finding patterns is hugely useful. I think it's necessary for having, for example, an ability to create, learn, or use language. Apophenia just seems like pattern-detection in overdrive. And the problem with conspiracy theories is that, just occasionally, they are correct. There are real conspiracies in the world, along with misinformation and disinformation. So that probably encourages and/or reinforces apophenia; it's like that one good golf shot that keeps people coming back for more. Another example from early childhood is seeing a monster or scary face in the (semi-)dark in one's bedroom.

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