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Humans love patterns. Apophenia is the common tendency to detect patterns that do not exist.
Apophenia occurs when we try to make predictions or find answers based on unrelated events. This can lead to poor decision-making and mental health conditions.
The term was coined in 1958 by German psychiatrist Klaus Conrad during his study of schizophrenia. It is an effect of brain function that is now commonly recognised in health, not just to those with a form of psychosis.
In schizophrenia, Conrad found that those who developed "apophany" started experiencing abnormal meanings in their daily life derived from unconnected events.
n healthy individuals, apophenia may not lead to such alarming consequences, but can still have a significant impact on one’s decision-making processes.
Mild apophenia occurs in many domains such as finance, arts, and politics. It has the potential to lead to risky behaviours or wrong beliefs about the meaning of a pattern.
Visual illusions. Some people see non-existent images in clouds such as a face as a sign of something significant, such as a message from a loved one or a sign of the future.
Financial decisions. People who notice an illusory pattern may believe the outcome of an event is not determined by chance but by previous outcomes or choices. Gamblers might believe that if they make two small wins in a row, they will have a third win.
Apophenia can help you think more creatively, but big decisions should be made only when the facts are clear.
To avoid the pitfalls of apophenia:
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