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Blame The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon For The Things You Notice More Than Others

Imagine you just heard the word "amygdala" for the first time. Then, a day after you first heard it, you come across it again. And then again somewhere else. You wonder how you've gone your whole life without hearing the word "amygdala" and now suddenly it's everywhere! This is the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, also called the frequency illusion or recency illusion. According to the Pacific Standard, Baader-Meinhof is caused by two things: "The first, selective attention, kicks in when you're struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you unconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence." The name itself is the same as a militant West German terrorist group from the 1970s—the phenomenon bares that name because the person who first noted it experienced it with the phrase "Baader-Meinhof."

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. The Baader-Meinhof group was a late 20th century leftist militant group from West Germany. 00:37

  2. The recency effect is the cognitive bias that inflates the importance of recent stimuli or observations. 02:09

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