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Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon or Now You Will See it Everywhere

I am sure you have faced this situation before, even without considering all the tracking the “big ones” do of our online searches!! When you hear or learn a new or obscure word, or even experience or notice something new or rare to you, you suddenly see it everywhere. This is the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon or now you will see it everywhere syndrome. While I am not really sure if you will actually see the name of this phenomenon all around, I am guessing there will be something related to it at least that you might find yourself looking at over and over again!!

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How I Got to Baader-Meinhof: See it Everywhere!

Surprisingly, I had not planned to write about this topic at all today, but I ended up here because I started seeing one word everywhere suddenly. My ‘learn a new word a day’ did not bring me here, neither did any other fancy new word. It was also not some obscure event or strange new compulsion I had. Not at all. In my case, that word was grandmother – so very familiar, so very comforting, but it did happen (and yes, related words too popped up all over)!!!

You see, I went over to dVerse Poets Pub yesterday for I haven’t joined in there for too long and wanted to check out the current prompt so I could participate. Turns out, the prompt was grandmothers, and now I am seeing it – the word, I mean – everywhere!! And the only place I did a search for the word after seeing that prompt was on my blog archives to search for a poem I wrote about my grandmom a few years ago!

Here are couple of the things I did see popup

More About How We See it Everywhere

The Story Behind the Name

First, the origins of the name of this phenomenon. It has nothing to do with researchers or scientists who explored the science behind this phenomenon. It got its name from a terrorist group in W Germany after a particular case of this phenomenon occurred (before it had this name, of course). A man named Terry Mullen wrote to a newspaper column for the St Paul Pioneer Press in 1994 that he had first heard of this hitherto unknown faction, and soon after came across their name from another source. Soon after the paper published Mullen’s story, other readers sent in their own similar experiences. And the name was born!

The Science Behind It

This phenomenon, also termed ‘frequency illusion‘ (by Arnold Zwicky, a Stanford professor), actually involves two different biases of our brains.

  • The first is selective attention, which simply means noticing things that are important to us and ignoring the rest.
  • The second is confirmation bias, which refers to our tendency to look for things supporting our hypotheses while disregarding potential counter-evidence (source).

So, if you were seriously considering getting that new ‘all-green’ car and maybe in a particular color, and you suddenly see those cars all around you, it is just the frequency illusion at work! Or maybe you already have seen the cars popping up everywhere already!

Other Interesting Phenomena

You might have experienced other such phenomena as well, like deja vu, or illusory motion (the feeling of motion when in a stopped vehicle and the vehicle next to you starts moving), or even something termed as event boundary (where we forget why we entered a room in the first place)! Our brains sure are so very interesting even in the quirks!

h/t and further reading

Grandmothers: the dVerse Prompt!

This week’s Poetics prompt at dVerse is – “to write about grannies. Those older women who support us and nurture us. The women who perhaps spoil us a little, but reserve the right to tell us off. Maybe you are a grandma, or live with one. Tell me how it is to be a granny.”

So turns out that I did write a poem about my maternal grandma in 2018, shortly after she passed away. You can read the full poem titled Ode to My Paati and more about her here if you wish.

I’ve So Many Grammys
Grandmoms are so very warm
Like hugs, cookies, hot teas..
Grandmoms are cool too
The most wonderul ‘shes’!
Don’t you agree?

Here are some paati*-tales
(Note – paati, not party)
Stories of amazing females
that I so luckily knew..

First, THE ‘athai-paati*,’
My grandpa’s sole sibling
(on dad’s side, I mean)..
Who was (I say fondly) chatty!
A bundle of energy was she,
And a walking fact-ionary…
Always ready with a quip..
In today’s world, she would be
what my teens call ‘hip’!
Never mind that she mixed us up
My cousin often became me
And if we sat still too long,
Well, we were setting ourselves a trap!
(Once again, fondly..I mean no wrong)
For athai-paati sure loved to yap!

Then there was Subbayya maami*
She was everyone’s grammy..
An aunt of an aunt was she,
and a tower of strength was she..
At gatherings and get-togethers,
it was inevitable rather,
that the answer was always –
“Ask maami!” ‘Awesome-sauce’
indeed is how I would sum up,
her magnanimous personality!

As for my very own grammys –
I mean, my mom’s and dad’s mammys,
Amazing women were they indeed
To tell their tales, more time I will need!

~Vidya @ ladyinreadwrites

  • *paati – grandma in Tamil
  • *athai – aunt (specifically dad’s sister) in Tamil
  • *maami or mami – aunt (specifically mom’s brother’s wife) in Tamil; also used for family friends

Related Reads

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, hoping you enjoyed this and here is kind of knowing (and hoping) you will see this everywhere!! As always, I welcome any and all thoughts and comments on this post.

19 thoughts on “Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon or Now You Will See it Everywhere

  1. I love your granny poem!! As for when looking for that “green” car, every time we decide to get a new vehicle, we see them everywhere when never before had we seen them.

  2. Loved, loved, loved this post. It happens to me all the time, I first remember years ago suddenly noticing all these pregnant women, then noticing the car was considering buying, and most recently a song that suddently plays everywhere!
    So interesting, thanks for sharing.
    Great poem and dedication!

    1. Debra, thanks so much!! And a song that plays and simply stays stuck in your head even when it is not playing – it has an even more specific term that I learned of just two weeks ago – earworm!!

  3. Well, I’ve never come across that term before. You know alot of interesting words/stuff. Must be all those books you’re reading. Have you read Babel? When I google something, that something pops up everywhere- FB, Instagram! Love your granny poem. Can’t say my granny from my dad was warm and cuddly though.

  4. Hi Vidya,
    Thanks for connecting the name to the phenomenon. I have heard of both before but had not made a connection. How many times do we have to see something before we remember it?
    As I get older, I find that I am living more in the “hereafter”. When I go into a room and have to stop and ask myself “what am I here after?”
    For now, all I am ready to say about grandmas is that I am married to one.

  5. very interesting phenomenon indeed! and it does work and works SO much! I didn’t know the name for it so I thank you for a new fancy term I will throw around ever so often

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