Hyperapophenia

Nonsense is nonsense. But the study of nonsense? That is a science.
—Saul Lieberman

Apophenia is when the human mind finds meaning in the meaningless.

A specific well-known special case of apophenia is pareidolia: the seeing of human faces in things which do not contain human faces. Like this face on Mars, or Jesus in this piece of toast.

Face on Mars
Face on Mars

Jesus toast
Jesus in a piece of toast

The problem with confirmation bias is that once you know what it is you begin to see it everywhere.

Apophenia is normal. When apophenia is increased beyond normal limits, hyperapophenia is achieved.

Apophenia is a risk any time that a "search for meaning" is performed. And searches for meaning, high and low, are performed constantly.

A low example: as I type this on a phone, the phone's software is looking at every word I type, and searching for meaning. If it sees an error it quickly tries to substitute it with the correct word. If I gets it right, we don't even notice. If it gets it wrong, we're frustrated. If the mistake has an accidental second meaning, then it can be funny. It's reminiscent of a Freudian slip.

Precursors to Hyper-Apophenia.

The experience of serendipity is a precursor to Hyper-Apophenia. The feeling of déjà-vu

The Onset of Hyper-Apophenia

When people are instructed to look for hidden meaning, and particularly if they are incentivized to look very hard for hidden meaning, a bout of hyperapophenia is guaranteed

Somewhere Richard Feynman writes that when the quantum electro dynamic theory fell upon him he had a vision for a moment that the entire universe might be a single subatomic particle bouncing back and forth through time interacting only with itself. I've never been able to find the place where he wrote. If you know it please write it on a postcard and send it to me here in the penitentiary.

(It is on such a day that I am apt to make one of those haphazard encounters which will alter the course of my life.)

External Links

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See Also