(Excuse the horrible title of this question. I just can't find the proper (?) words. Please edit as pleased.)

It happens many times to me that when I learn about something (e.g. a word, a concept, etc), I suddenly start to see it in many places. This is not due to a change in external circumstances but to "the way you look at things".

For example, I recently learned the word "oftentimes". I was not aware it existed before. And yet, I suddenly started to see it in many places, so that it caughts my attention. Naturally, people did not suddenly started to use this word, so this was clearly a change in my perception, due to "conceptual learning".

My question is, is there a word for this psychological phenomenon? I hardly find the proper words to search for this, so my efforts at the moment have been pointless.


1 Answer 1


The scenario you describe is sometimes called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where one stumbles upon some obscure piece of information—often an unfamiliar word or name—and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.

The more scientifically accepted name for this cognitive bias seems to be 'frequency illusion'.

The illusion in which a word, a name, or other thing that has recently come to one's attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterwards[.]

As to why it occurs, this article seems to state a combination of selective attention (or attentional control) and confirmation bias:

One, your brain seems to be excited by the fact that you've learned something new, and selective attention occurs. Your brain subconsciously thinks, "Hey, that's awesome! I'm going to look for that thing without actually thinking about it." So now that you're looking for it, you find it. To make it all the more powerful, confirmation bias occurs after seeing it even once or twice. In other words, you start agreeing with yourself that, yup, you're definitely seeing it more


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