When I was in high school, I had a crush on a fellow student that happened to live in room 23 of her dormitory. It wasn’t too long before I found out indirectly that she actually had less than no interest in me and so I didn’t attempt to pursue any kind of relationship with her — I just didn’t want to get hurt. Not long after these events, however, I began noticing that the number 23 was popping up everywhere. I would notice it on a box of cereal, or a page in a library book would be dogeared to that exact page. What a coincidence, I thought, that I had recently had a crush on a girl who lived in room 23 and now the number seemed to be following me everywhere I went.

When I was attending Rutgers University, sometimes a similar thing would occur. I would learn about some obscure fact that I had never seen before that day and then suddenly in the weeks that followed, I would see that obscure piece of information in a number of different places. I would always think the same thing — it must be a tremendous coincidence that I am now reencountering this fact that I just learned about recently.

I remember when I told my brother about the odd occurrences and he quickly dispelled my mystical thinking. Even he knew then that there is no such thing as coincidence. What I was experiencing was not a coincidence at all but something far more simple. It was something that is referred to as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, and the simplest explanation is like this — you think that it is so interesting that you are re-encountering the same obscure fact after only recently learning about it, but it is not at all coincidence or luck or anything of the nature.

When you learn about the obscure fact, or even have something in mind (such as my crush on the schoolmate leading to me thinking about the number 23) that very thing sticks out more to you because you have it in mind. When you see the obscure fact after learning about it, you are amazed to see it there, but the truth is that it would have been there whether you learned about it or not. You are overlooking countless obscure pieces of information every day that are completely meaningless to you because there are so many of them out there that they merge together into a beautiful map of information. The human mind is incapable of taking in all of that information at once so when you are particularly focused on one thing, that one thing stands out to you and you are marveled by seeing it again.

The next time you learn some obscure piece of information and then see it later on in the day, remember that it is not at all a coincidence — just the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon in effect!

Posted by Gordon Davidescu

Born in Perth Amboy, Gordon Davidescu lives in Queens with his wife, toddler son and bears. He loves reading a good book whether it is cloth and paper or digitally.

18 Comments

  1. Great article, Gordon! When I was doing an image search for inclusion in your article, the Glock was the first image that showed up in a search for “23.” I thought it was Kismet in action and that’s why we’re using it!

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    1. What a “coincidence” — I was wondering why you chose it!:)

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      1. “Kismet” is never a “coincidence,” Gordon!

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        1. That’s right, David — I thought you’d appreciate the quotation mark humor.:) I love the meaning of Kismet.

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  2. it is such a co-incidence that they even made a movie out of “the number 23”😛 My birthday falls on the 23rd day of a month and I happened to stumble upon this very article!

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    1. That’s quite a humourous happenstance, Anubha!

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  3. […] sadece basit bir tesadüften ibaret gibi görünen bu olayın neden böyle havalı bir adı var? Durum şu şekilde açıklanıyor: Öğrendiğimiz şeyin […]

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  4. darice ostrenga May 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    The funny thing is I keep seeing the number 23 everywhere and then read this article lol

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    1. Rest assured that this article would have been here regardless!:) You should see the movie about the number twenty-three with Jim Carrey. It’s fantastic.

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  5. I always wondered about this strange phenomenon.. Never knowing this had a name! Gordon that was really a great article.. Could you tell me if there are any books avaiable on this mysterious synchronicity ?

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    1. I am not aware of any and most books with the title The Baader-Meinhof anything have to do with a group of criminals that turned to murder to get attention to their political messages.

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  6. For a dozen years my wife and I owned a starter and alternator repair shop. If we had a customer show up with one particular, very obscure type of alternator ( a Magnetti Morelli, used on Renault cars-their closest dealership was over 100 miles away, so the cars were uncommon in our area), we would see at least one and usually two more before the week was out. Consequently we always stocked enough parts to fix three of this type alternator, We saw this phenomenon repeated at least a dozen times. Coincidence?

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    1. I honestly don’t know what you would call this — how many times did it happen?

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  7. I’ve always herd it called cognitive resonance. I posted on Facebook about it and one day later come across this blog. So cognitive resonance/an or Baader Meinhof is the thing I keep seeing repeatedly – nutty!

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    1. Quite nutty! Glad you found us!:)

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  8. […] seems to reference it? It’s a frequency illusion (also referred to by internet people as the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon) – you’re subconsciously seeking out information that will support your claim. […]

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  9. I’m familiar with this phenomenon, but never knew the name. Found this after I saw a post on facebook about it and googled it. I’m wondering how soon it will be before I hear or read it mentioned somewhere…

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    1. I imagine it won’t be too long! Thanks!:)

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