Where have I seen that before?

This happens to me a lot, and I am not sure that it’s too common. So I thought I would pen it down to make myself feel better. Whenever I purchase something new, I begin to see it all around me. Now, I am not talking of everyday things that I buy without really thinking too much of, but rather the kind of things that I really want and don’t get around to for a while for various reasons – such as not having time, or being wiped out by the flu for 2  weeks, or having to blow my entire monthly budget on my cat’s operation because he decided to take on another cat… and lost! So, by the time I get my hands on the desired object, it’s like I won a trophy, after training so hard in rain, hail and thunder.

This can be anything, like some new kind of candy, a new book, a new dress in a fresh new summer colour, a new handbag, a new car… anything. I am sitting on the train reading the latest erotic thriller à la 50 shades of grey, and look up to find the girl in front of me in the subway reading the same book. It appears again on the desk of another employee as I brush past their desk. The lady in the elevator is wearing the same pastel colour as me, and another in the same elevator is carrying the same purse I just purchased. By the end of the day I see at least 10 different people wearing the same colour, a colour I didn’t seem to notice yesterday on anyone! Even new words I learn and tuck away in my vocabulary, suddenly jump out at me online or in conversation. I am surrounded by people who seem to have the exact same things as me.

Why is this so? Why are we drawn to things that we have suddenly come into possession of?

I asked Google, because she knows everything 😉 There is a term for this, and it’s called ‘Baader-Meinhof phenomenon’. According to this, it’s due to 2 main psychological reasons – the first being ‘selective attention’ where we unconsciously keep an eye out for things that we are struck by. The second being ‘confirmation bias’ where we interpret any new evidence as as confirmation of our own beliefs. I don’t have a degree in psychology, so I won’t try to delve deeper into the science behind it. From a novice point of view it seems like a ‘Self-Absorbed phenomenon’ to me. Think about it, I am struck by things that I have suddenly acquired, but until the acquisition, I didn’t acknowledge it’s existence. And to top it all off, I keep seeing it everywhere, so I can feel important, because others also believe in having it too!

It would be interesting to observe how this phenomenon affects the first world as opposed to the third world. For example, I don’t really notice people drinking the same bottled water as me – ‘ Oh look that guy is drinking the ‘Evian still mineral water’ which I started to drink yesterday. But for those of us whom bottled water is scarce, that just may be what comes into the ‘selective attention’ span. Water.

The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that this is a thought pattern that we (those of us who have it) can turn around for the better.

Imagine if the opposite of this ‘phenomenon’ occurred? What if it was in our inherent nature to be ‘aware’ of the ‘ordinary’ things we ‘already’ have, but that others don’t. What if we were to step out everyday conscious of the food we ate, the water we drank, the family we kissed goodbye to, all the while knowing that many people around the world, do not have these things.

What if? What would we do? We would be happier of course! And, hopefully be compelled to help those of us who are less fortunate!



One thought on “Where have I seen that before?

  1. I guess this is one those behaviours that lead us to live in a society. In the same way we measure our “happiness” relatively to people around us, so we can be miserable even having food, a ceiling, friends around, no war, health, etc. For me that once lived in a poorer country is sometimes difficult to remember the feeling of insecurity, unfairness and lack of future, because we (humans) adapt so well to new realities that everything that, at beginning, looked bright an shiny shortly becomes possible to improve…

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