Blog 2: On Dropping Out of School and Becoming a Gypsy

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I've never really been one for the nomadic life. Moreover, as a devoted student of the natural sciences, I have brushed off horoscopes, palmistry, and tarot cards as superstitious scams aimed to satisfy the curiosities and hopes of the desperate and feeble. However, the eerily 'coincidental' and 'psychic' happenings my roommate and I have experienced in recent weeks almost caused me to doubt whether pseudoscience really is pseudoscience. Almost. Allow me to explain.

I would far exceed the word count quota if I were to enumerate here all the predictions and coincidences I have encountered recently. Nonetheless, I will share a few. In the past three days, my roommate and I have collectively found six dimes on the ground at various locations around the U. During this time, we did not chance upon any other coins randomly lying around (no pennies, no quarters). Take, as another example, the following situation of apparent "jinxing": About an hour after mentioning to my roommate that a couple of our friends who were dating had "been together for a while," their relationship status on Facebook changed to "single."

More examples? While sitting in my biology class, I decided it would be neat to do a project on genetically modified cats. We have never specifically discussed cats in class, and I'm not particularly interested in cats, but the idea just came to mind for some reason. When I went on Moodle that night, the first sample article my professor had posted was exactly about that: a GMO cat modified to glow in the dark. Additionally, my roommate and I have recently been seemingly reading each others minds, finishing each others sentences, and encountering the same odd coincidences independently in the same day. We thought perhaps we should harness our psychic powers, drop out of school and become gypsies. Jokingly, of course.

While all these coincidences seem to suggest something supernatural, in all honesty, I realize that calling ourselves fortune-tellers or mind-readers is simply an example of apophenia, a phenomenon which our textbook describes as the "tendency to perceive meaningful connections among unrelated phenomena." What are the chances that all of those coincidences and more would happen in the span of a couple of weeks? Perhaps not as low as we think! Most likely, these occurrences were due to chance, and our contrived isolation and analyzation of them was a result of not only apophenia, but also a number of logical fallacies-- namely, confirmation bias. Retrospectively, I realize that my roommate and I fell victim to confirmation bias and neglect of evidence that didn't lead to the conclusion that we were real-life Esmeraldas. For example, we never considered all the other times in our lives when we had found coins on the ground. We didn't think anything of the other changed relationship statuses on Facebook that week. I didn't point out the lack of coincidence in the other biology articles my professor posted. Et cetera.

It's interesting that while all these happenstances were taking place, I was reading about pseudosience, apophenia, pareidolia, and fallacies in my Psych textbook. COINCIDENCE?... probably.

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Image from: http://www.lucknet.com/Horoscope_news/Horoscope.html

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Engaging and perplexing post! Pseudoscience definitely is appealing to us, for the mere fact of making sense and taking some sort of "control" of the otherwise unconnected occurrences throughout the day. This illusory correlation, as you mentioned, far outweighs the otherwise mundane and and non-correlative happenings in a day (as you mentioned, you paid no attention to similar Facebook status changes, or other articles your professor sent you). It's in our nature to make imaginary connections or supernatural happenings because it satisfies what we think is going to happen (confirmation bias).

I really enjoyed your post! It was easy to read, and kept my attention the whole time. Psychics is interesting to many of us because reading minds is interesting, and people like to believe everything they here. I do like how you reasoned why these thing could of happened, I agree the things are freaky, but they are probably coincidence.

Hah nice ending, I personally have fallen into this thought process before and coincidence bias is a very predominant value of most pseudosciences. Very good example of a real-life aspect.

Even if they are "just" coincidences, man I love coincidences. I wonder how long you could follow a line of coincidences until they all out dissipated, like if you just keep on diving into that psuedoscientific intrigue, you might happen upon some truly or imaginably miraculous events.

I found your post to be quite interesting. I also find my self having a span of weeks where I feel like things have occurred freakishly similarly. I found my self thinking, wow I just thought about that! What are the chances it would actually occur. For example last week I was thinking to my self, I haven't seen a movie in a while and would like to watch one. Not even ten minutes later my friend texts me asking if I wanted to go see a movie. Like you I thought this is to weird to be happening. I agree with you also that other factors could have played in to why I may have received a text. I agree with you that learning about pseudoscience in psychology has made me more aware. I also liked your ending. In all a very well written, creative and funny assignment!

I agree with your peers, this was a really interesting read! Even after learning about all of these biases and false perceptions through my studies, I *still* believe in these seemingly related coincidences. Once you see these patterns, they become nearly impossible to ignore! There are really patterns everywhere--for example in a study a person plotted people who had breast cancer on a map. After all of the individual cases were plotted, there appeared to be "cancer clusters" or areas with a higher concentration of people diagnosed with cancer. There was no real relationship, but people who saw the map assumed that living in a certain area would mean they they had a higher chance of getting cancer. This of course isn't true, but when you have enough points of anything, patterns emerge. So weird! Thanks for the insightful post!

I myself have felt as though I should pursue the gypsy profession when I discovered my seemingly psychic abilities, jokingly of course. HAHA. My brother and i seem to finish each other sentences all the time and also he seemingly reads my mind when I think about Big Red gum. Sometimes I brush off such things as coincidence but others get me thinking about if there is some sort of invisible link between my brother and I.

I think like I'm both a gypsy and a lifelong learner forever in school. By that I mean, I like to travel the world (70 countries thus far) and study various bodies of knowledge.

It seems like I'm always in some sort of school, because I truly value and enjoy learning. Self-investment is a good investment and traveling the world (even like a gypsy) is a powerful, life-changing experience.

It need not be either, or ...why not enjoy both!

Paul F Davis - author of 'Supernatural Fire'

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by bacho008 published on February 4, 2012 2:58 PM.

Baseball Superstion: real or fiction? was the previous entry in this blog.

Wait I can get away with only 15 minutes a day?? is the next entry in this blog.

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