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Help, what's the name for this?

Posted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:54 pm UTC
by Helenaneleh
When you learn something for the first time, and then a short time later you come across it again, when until then you'd never come across it. For example, you could never have heard of entropy, but then you spend a morning researching it and in the afternoon someone mentions it in a conversation. Or you learn a new word or term (e.g. synecdoche) and it crops up in a news article later that day. Almost like coincidence or synchronicity (and not deja vu), but there's a definite unique term for this, possibly named after the person who first described it? I used to know and I *think* it may have been this webcomic that alerted me to it, but having gone through the last year or so of strips I can't find it, and thought people who use this forum may either recognise it or be better at Google search terms than me! There's also a wiki article about it which I remember reading, which explained that essentially your brain is more likely to register something you've just learned, which is why it happens. Anyway, if you've noticed it happening or if you can tell me what the term for it is, I'd be incredibly grateful, as it's starting to hugely bug me. Thanks!

Re: Help, what's the name for this?

Posted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 6:34 pm UTC
by modularblues
Priming? It works through a kind of subconscious "contextual conditioning"...

Re: Help, what's the name for this?

Posted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:58 pm UTC
by Bobber
Gmalivuk wrote a lot about this in a linguistics thread once, let me see if I can find it...

gmalivuk wrote:(Another example is in the annoying words thread, when people swear up and down that they'd never heard a word before time T. Which is a claim I will never believe unless that was the first time they were in a new country or it can be demonstrated objectively that the word was coined at or very shortly before time T.)

Damn, seems like I have to dig deeper...

gmalivuk wrote:
Kewangji wrote:But if it was common in north america, surely you would have heard it during those 15 years in Canada?
year in the sun wrote:it's also possible that i never heard it during my first fifteen years because i wasn't in canada

Incidentally, where were you in those 15 years? If it was a non-English speaking place, I'll more likely believe that you didn't hear it before moving to Canada. If it was the UK or Australia or something, though, I remain skeptical.

(It's fairly common for people, upon first consciously thinking about a word, or upon finally having it properly defined, to suddenly start noticing it all the time, and simultaneously swearing they never heard it before. But this is just another example of how fallible human memory is, since you simply are less likely to remember hearing a word when it's not something you've thought about or it's not something you really understand.)


Here was the full thing!

I agree with him, and I think the point applies here too: you may THINK you have never heard about it before, but only because you didn't know and comprehend the word when you heard it earlier, so you forgot it again.

Re: Help, what's the name for this?

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:00 am UTC
by jaap
Here are two related effects.

There's the Recency Effect, where things that happened recently are easier to recall than things that happen longer ago, and so are given more importance. (E.g. Oscar nominations tend to be of more recent films)

It is also related to the Recency Illusion, which is when the effect you describe of suddenly noticing something a lot (especially language related) makes you think it didn't use to occur, and that it is therefore recent.

Re: Help, what's the name for this?

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:27 am UTC
by Asleep or Wrong
Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

e: further reading is mildly interesting, in the wikipedia article's AfDs it's explained that the term was made up in a free write-in segment of St. Paul Pioneer Press after someone had the experience with the Red Army Faction, it became a sort of trope of that section with several people supplying theirs, I guess it stews around for a while in that half page of a small paper, maybe gets onto some blogs and small personal websites, then Damn Interesting writes an article on it, then Wikipedians go nuts, then some Wikipedians realize that it has never been mentioned in any psychological journal and is just a silly neologism from a paper with a circulation of 250000 and kill the article.

Re: Help, what's the name for this?

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:21 am UTC
by Helenaneleh
Yes!!! Thank you so much, "Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon" was exactly what I was thinking of. Pity Wikipedia killed it, I quite like the term, though I suppose it's understandable. I've learnt so much about Jung, causality and synchronicity while trying to pacify my frustrated brain that in a curious way it doesn't matter so much whether the original wiki exists! Thanks again, I really am incredibly grateful, it was one of those things I thought I might never get an answer to. Chalk up another victory to the collective power of the internet.