The dangers of apophenia: not everything happens for a reason - Deepstash
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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.


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The science of apophenia

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.


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From fun imagery to financial risk

From fun imagery to financial risk

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.


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The balance between embracing and managing apophenia

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:

  • Pay attention to any biased assumptions you make when faced with false patterns.
  • Work on accepting that not everything happens for a reason. You are more likely to be successful by making rational decisions based on available evidence.
  • Compare the so-called "signs" from the universe with your research.


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