The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, commonly known as the “frequency illusion”, is typically nothing more than annoying. It’s when you buy green Ford Explorer to be a little different, and then suddenly you seem to notice green Ford Explorers everywhere. Whatever is top of mind you tend to notice lot.
However, I’m finding that intentionally manipulating this illusion can be kind of handy. I’ve watched the show “ Timeless” a few times, but something happened the last time I watched it. Somewhere between watchings, I came across Eldridge Cleaver and his work during the civil rights movement. I didn’t really notice the role he played in Timeless before, but because I had heard of him elsewhere his name stuck out during the rewatch of the show and I become more interested.
I’ve seen this happen a few times in various circumstances — names seemed to pop up a lot more often once I knew a little bit about them. Once I learn a bit about someone, it’s no longer just noise in a story like it was previously.
Make it intentional
I thought it would be neat to make this more intentional, so I’ve spent some time building a new Anki deck to help with that ( more about Anki here, and the deck is here). I searched for lists of top authors, journalists, civil rights leaders, company founders, astronauts, explorers, Olympians, inventors, painters, and others, and put them all in this deck. There are 371 people in there now, and I’ll likely add a few more as time goes on.
The questions I wrote for each one are very simple, as I’m mostly just using it to stick their names in my head. Some I might go deeper on, but most I simply want to have some awareness of them so that I’ll notice when they pop up in TV shows, podcasts, or other places.
Is it possible to intentionally create the frequency illusion? I honestly don’t know, but I’ll be studying this deck for the next year or so (just one new card per day), so we’ll see what happens!
Originally published at https://www.mickmel.com on December 5, 2023.