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Full Title or Meme

What psychologists call Apophenia - the human tendency to see connections and patterns that are not really there—gives rise to conspiracy theories



In The Believing Brain (2011), Shermer wrote that humans have "the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency", which he called "agenticity".[1]

Pattern recognition

Pattern recognition is a cognitive process that involves retrieving information either from long-term, short-term or working memory and matching it with information from stimuli. However, there are three different ways in which this may happen and go wrong, resulting in apophenia.[2]

The Last Thing you Try

Why is it that the last thing your try always works? (No, really, some people think this!)

Skinner performed an experiment involved taking a hungry pigeon, placing it in a box and releasing a food pellet at a random time. The pigeon received a food pellet while performing some action; and so, rather than attributing the arrival of the pellet to randomness, it repeated its action, and continued to do so until another pellet fell. As the pigeon increased the number of times it performed the action, it gained the impression that it also increased the times it was "rewarded" with a pellet, although the release in fact remained entirely random.[3]


  • Merriam Webster, 3rd International Dictionary. : the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)
  • Michael Shermer, Why Do We Need a Belief in God. (2011-08-19) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQO4y2bueAM&feature=BFa&list=PLCD25E214FF0BCD3B&index=2
  • Psychgology 24, Pattern Recognition and Your Brain. (2016-03-21) http://www.psychology24.org/pattern-recognition-and-your-brain/
  • Esther Inglis-Arkell, How pigeons get to be superstitious. http://io9.gizmodo.com/5746904/how-pigeons-get-to-be-superstitious