Have you ever wondered why sometimes after seeing or experiencing something for the first time, you end up seeing it happening everywhere?

Or when you get interested in something, you end up noticing that everyone seems to be talking about it?

This may be down to the Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, or Frequency Illusion, a cognitive bias we all suffer from.

It is the tendency to notice something more often after noticing it for the first time, leading to the belief that in reality it happens more often.

The origin of the phrase has nothing to do with any scientist called Baader-Meinhoff. In fact, it is named after a strange occurrence where in 1994 an online message board user, who after mentioning the name of the 1970s German terrorist group Baader-Meinhof once, kept noticing it over and over again in other places, and posted on the forum about their experience.

The Baader-Meinhoff group had existed in the 1970s, and there was even a popular German book (1985) and film (2008) about them, but they were not as well known outside the country. However, the user saw their unusual name once, and after that point they seemed to notice it again and again.

It is not because the phrase actually was being used more often, it is just because the person noticed it more often and therefore thought it was happening more often.

It is because the brain is now likely to recognise something and make you consciously aware of it more often.

Another example is where you have just or are thinking of buying something (such as a car, pair of shoes, phone), and then all of a sudden end up seeing people with it everywhere.

You might think: “Wow, so many people just got this all of a sudden”.

But in reality, they were there the whole time, they just did not stand out to you.

Or where you notice a particularly nice old red car on the street, and on that day you happen to notice more old red cars throughout the rest of the day.

When it comes to innovation and creativity, we need to be careful when looking at trends and getting feedback from the market.

If we notice that all of a sudden, a huge number of people are doing or owning something, then it might be that this has been the case the whole time but we just did not notice it before.

Therefore, it might not be a trend at all, just us noticing it all for the first time.

Additionally, this is related to the other bias of the Mere Exposure effect, where the more often you notice something, the more likely you are to like it.

Did you know that scientific evidence shows your creativity decreases over time

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Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.