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Synchronicity

Synchronicity is a phenomenon in which people interpret two separate—and seemingly unrelated—experiences as being meaningfully intertwined, even though there is no evidence that one led to the other or that the two events are linked in any other causal way. Though many people perceive signs or spiritual meaning in synchronistic events, most scientists believe that such events are more likely coincidences that only seem meaningful due to aspects of human thinking such as confirmation bias.

Understanding Synchronicity

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The concept of synchronicity was developed by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung in the early 1900s. Jung himself believed in synchronicity, which he defined as “meaningful coincidences." He wrote extensively about the concept.

However, most scientists today consider the idea that coincidences are meaningful to be non-scientific. Instead, many argue that factors such as confirmation bias offer a more compelling explanation: People seek out information to support their ideas and ignore information that challenges them.

What is an example of synchronicity?

Synchronicity may be as simple as seeing a word repeatedly and looking for meaning in that experience. In a more complex example, imagine that someone has a dream about an old friend; shortly after, he runs into her. He may believe the events signify something about the friendship, while in reality, they are likely coincidental.

Who invented the concept of synchronicity?

Synchronicity was first defined by Carl Jung in the 1920s and explored throughout his career. It has been subsequently studied by physicists such as Wolfgang Pauli, parapsychologists, and some psychoanalysts and Jungian scholars.

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Why Humans Seek Meaningful Patterns

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It can be easy to spot patterns that don’t truly exist. Why are people so susceptible to this tendency? Experts theorize that, from an evolutionary perspective, pattern recognition was likely beneficial for survival: Ancient human ancestors learned to predict possible threats. For instance, they might realize that predators appear at a particular time of day, so it’s safest to stay hidden.

Humans impose structure and meaning on their lives. If they come across two events that seem related, they might categorize them together, even if there’s no objective relationship between the two.

Why do I see patterns in everything?

The human brain is designed to identify patterns. While this tendency can be useful, it may lead someone to over-interpret a random occurrence or perceive a pattern where none exists. Individuals vary in their tendency to recognize patterns; those who ascribe greater significance to patterns may be more likely to notice them.

Why do I see the same word or number everywhere?

Feeling that one is seeing the same word or number in multiple places could be the result of confirmation or hindsight bias. Although different words and numbers have different probabilities of appearing—meaning that some repeated sightings are statistically less likely than others—ascribing meaning to such coincidences is an example of synchronicity.

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