Apophenia and Grilled Cheesus

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Sometimes, we make connections to simplify overly complex concepts that we wouldn't be able to fathom without these simplifications. These generalizations typically aren't harmful to us, but sometimes they can give us the wrong ideas about certain things. One type of incorrect connection is apophenia. Apophenia is a tendency to perceive meaningful connections among unrelated phenomena. We make certain connections among separate events that we encounter in order to make sense of the world around us.

This idea reminds me of the "Grilled Cheesus" episode of Glee, where Finn makes a grilled cheese that turns out to have an image of Jesus on it. He prays to Grilled Cheesus for his football team to win their next game; when they bring home a victory, he believes it is all because of Grilled Cheesus. This is an example of Apophenia because Finn is making the connection that they won their football game because of Grilled Cheesus, when in reality there is no connection between the two.

I recently experienced apophenia as I was walking to class one day. Earlier, I had been thinking about how I should send a Facebook message to a friend from high school that also attends the University of Minnesota so that we could plan a time to get together for lunch and catch up. So I was walking along, and guess who I ran into - this friend I had just been thinking about earlier! I couldn't help but think that because I was thinking about her, the universe somehow made it happen for us to run into each other. Looking back now, I know that our run-in was merely a coincidence. However, at the time, it just seemed too unbelievable to be chance.

Some unrelated events that we make connections for are more obvious than others. How often do you think we make connections among disparate events?

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The Grilled Cheesus episode of Glee was one of their best, I think. That's a nice popular culture example of apophenia.

I love the concept of apophenia! I always think of how people like to watch Wizard of Oz with the sound off but listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

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This page contains a single entry by louwa027 published on September 30, 2011 10:49 PM.

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