What is it and more I Psych Central
Apophenia, or patternicity, is characterized by seeing patterns in unrelated things. Anyone can experience it, but if you are living with schizophrenia, it can be part of a delirium.
Apophenia, or seeing a pattern where there really isn’t one, is not uncommon. You may have looked up at the sky and seen a cloud that looked like a puppy or a sailboat. Or, you can sometimes see faces in inanimate objects, like a tree or a fire hydrant.
Professionals are not immune to apophenia either. Scientists can draw conclusions from data models that don’t really exist. Healthcare professionals can misdiagnose based on apophenia.
For most people, apophenia is a common occurrence that does not require treatment. But if you live with schizophrenia, apophenia can be part of a delirium.
If apophenia is interfering with your daily life, there is hope. Schizophrenia treatment options can help manage symptoms and improve relationships.
Apophenia, also known as patternicity, means seeing patterns in random events. This also applies when people infer the meaning of numbers, pictures, shapes, or any other truly random object.
This phenomenon is very frequent. We are regularly looking for models and are predisposed to
If you live with schizophrenia, the regularity can be a hallmark of paranoia, or delusions where you may think you are being threatened. You may have this belief because you see models in the media or other aspects of the environment.
There are no known causes of apophenia. It may have its roots in human biology, where making connections between events has helped survival.
In his book “The Believing Brain”, author Michael Shermer gives the example of an early hominid who hears a rustling in the grass. They have the choice of connecting this sound to a predator and reacting or assuming it’s nothing. Making the connection promotes survival, as the hominid moves away from the potential threat.
Apophenia can also be the result of training. Some scientists and health professionals, such as pathologists and nurses, link facts and data to make diagnoses. But sometimes that skill can turn into bias, where people see patterns that aren’t there.
This may be the case in historically marginalized groups – including people of color and indigenous peoples – and their communities, where
Delusions, which can include apophenia or regularity, are a possible symptom of schizophrenia. There are several potential causes of schizophrenia, including family history, brain chemistry, environmental exposures, and substance use.
Apophenia is a general term that encompasses several different types of phenomena.
- Pareidolia: This type involves seeing an image or sound from random visual or auditory stimuli. One common form is facial pareidolia, where the elements of an object can make it look like a face.
- Illusion of grouping: This illusion is to see patterns in events and data when there is in fact no connection between the data points.
- Confirmation bias: This bias is the tendency to only accept information that confirms previous beliefs.
- The player’s mistake: This type involves believing that a series of previous events affects a future event, even if the two are not related.
Some of these types of apophenia are difficult to avoid. Many people, for example, have the experience of seeing a face in a natural feature, a cloud, or a collection of lines.
Apophenia exists in various areas of life, and most people experience it at one point or another. These experiences are generally harmless and natural.
Here are some examples:
- You see the emotion in a natural scene, like tree bark arranged to resemble a bellowing mouth.
- You interpret an everyday object as resembling a face, like a fire hydrant with two round nozzles above a single line.
- A player sees a “winning streak” as a sign that he will continue to win.
- A scientist considers a group of medical cases to be a cluster, either due to confirmation bias or by ascribing too much meaning to unrelated data points. Real clusters are carefully studied before scientists can confirm them.
- Someone thinks an authority is trying to get them because of the models in the media and everyday events. They may also think that media figures are talking to them directly. This is an example of a paranoid delusion.
While regularity can be linked to survival instincts, its central feature is that the connections people see aren’t really there.
Synchronicity is a term coined by psychoanalyst Carl Jung. It refers to
This idea was part of Jung’s notion of a collective human unconscious. According to Jung, this was the source of certain behaviors, thoughts and dreams.
Synchronicity is difficult to study objectively. It is a one-off event that cannot be measured over an entire population. It is also only experienced by one person.
Although two people can participate in the same event, such as meeting a certain person, it may only affect one person synchronicity.
In his book “The Improbability Principle,” renowned statistician David J. Hand argues that people underestimate the true likelihood of seemingly rare events – they are in fact not rare at all.
Since synchronicity cannot be scientifically studied and coincidences are statistically more likely than people realize, it may be a form of apophenia.
Since apophenia is not harmful, most people do not need treatment. However, when combined with delusions, treatment for schizophrenia may be recommended.
Treatment options may include:
If you know someone who may be having crazy ideas, there are several steps you can take to support them. These may include:
- establish a relationship of trust
- stay calm and reassure the person that they are safe
- empathy with the person
- keep a diary of delusional symptoms
If you need further help, consider contacting a health or mental health professional. They may be able to offer more tips and strategies. You can also visit our page on supporting someone with schizophrenia for more ideas.
Joining a support group for family and friends of people with schizophrenia is also a great way to connect with other people who share similar experiences and learn coping strategies.
You can begin your search for a local support group at National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Apophenia is often a common and harmless part of everyday life. But it can also make everyday life more difficult if it’s part of the psychosis, such as paranoia or delusions.
Whatever you or your family is going through, remember that you are not alone. There are people who can help.
If you are wondering where to start, you can try Mental Health America. They can put you in touch with support groups and medical providers near you.