The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon


Have you ever noticed something for the first time and then suddenly it’s everywhere?

There are a couple explanations for this.

  1. You live on the cusp of everything and are the first to notice something (AKA King of the Hipsters)
  2. You just experienced the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

What is Baader-Meinhof?

It is a frequency illusion, a form of selective attention. Like when you are in the market for a new car and notice a specific make/model. As you drive around for the next week, you will notice all the cars out there of that make/model.

Were those same cars driving around two weeks ago? Probably, but you didn’t notice them then.

As to the origin of the term “Baader-Meinhof”, it isn’t named for the doctor who first published on the phenomenon, but for a German terrorist organization. No, really.

According to Pacific Standard Magazine, “… Baader-Meinhof phenomenon was invented in 1994 by a commenter on the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ online discussion board, who came up with it after hearing the name of the ultra-left-wing German terrorist group twice in 24 hours.”

So now you know. And now that you do know, you are likely to encounter the term “Baader-Meinhof” at least a few more times this week.

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