What is the name of this psychological phenomenon?

Similar to Pareidolia or when you seem to catch every red light when running late, I am looking for the name of a phenomenon or perception/effect where you talk about a specific topic and then seem to be inundated with additional sources in the short term after that discussion (because you are subconsciously more aware of it).

For example, over the holiday weekend my hippie/crazy sister in law who I barely see once a year was visiting and after a few drinks launched into her conspiracy theories about the evils of Monsanto and how they are killing our planet and the honey bees. :smack:

No less than 48 hours later I have - completely by random - run into 2 online articles and walked by a water cooler conversation on same. Now I know there is no magic or mysticism here, I am just more aware… but what is this effect called?



I don’t know what the phenomenon is called, but I have been told that it is a property of your reticular activating system. The idea is that this part of your brain registers things that somehow have value to you and it focuses your attention on these things when they occur. Like when your wife or girlfriend is pregnant, you suddenly see scores or pregnant women.

Not really. Like most high level psychological phenomena, priming inevitably depends on many areas and systems in the brain.

That web site, incidentally, does not look legit to me. I think it is some sort of content farm, though why anyone should be farming that sort of content is beyond me.

Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, AKA frequency illusion.

See Wiki List of Cognitive Biases.

This one amuses me because it’s not actually an illusion at all. It’s traffic engineering- humans set it up that way on purpose. It’s true, by definition, that most people take popular routes to wherever they’re going. Engineers time the changing of the traffic lights so that cars getting a green light at the first popular intersection get a green light as soon as they hit the next intersection. But how do they know how fast the lead cars will get to the second light? Why, the speed limit, of course! They assume you’ll be going the limit or just slightly over.

Most people don’t stay with the limit…especially when running late…so they get to the next intersection early, forcing them to stop at the light. Then the same with the third and fourth and fifth intersections.

Thus, when you run late, you get red lights. Red lights aren’t random; it’s not an accident.

Nah. Traffic is far more complicated than that. Co-ordinated lights are only really useful on long one way systems. In normal city road systems it isn’t possible to co-ordinate much because any given light is receiving cars that have turned in from various directions and the timing of their arrival is dependant on too many factors to allow co-ordination.

Further, if you were right, then unless you were speeding massively (ie by a factor of 2x or more) and not just the usual 10 or 20%, the second red light would only be red for a couple of seconds before it went green (since you would only be arriving a few seconds earlier than somone who travelled at the limit. Yet anyone who has experienced this phenomenon knows that when you are running late it seems like every light not only is red but stays red interminably!

Finally at a subjective level, the phenomenon affects me yet I don’t speed, significantly if at all, even when late. And it affects me throughout a journey across the city combining numerous routes that couldn’t possibly involve co-ordinated lights.

Steve Allen used to talk about the phenomenon of hearing a new word, then hearing that word used several times soon afterward. I’ve heard people say the same thing about names or places. I think it’s just a matter of imprinting a pattern which will then be recognized in the future, while in the past it would have been ignored as mere noise.

As a truck driver spending all day on busy urban roads I sometimes used to find that a whole day would go by with green lights, people letting me out of side roads, helpful staff at deliveries and a ‘well done’ from the boss on my (early) return. Equally often I would have a day of red lights, unhelpful fellow drivers, surly goods-in staff and a bollocking when I finished because of some misdemeanor.

I have pondered on the phenomenon and could find no way of predicting how it would go. A relatively easy day could turn out to be terrible and what looked like a hard days work might be a breeze.

I suspect that everyone has this, whatever their field of work.

The one that bugs me is just the opposite. When you’ve dropped something on the floor of the car or something, and you figure you can pick it up when you are stopped at the next red light. And then you actually make every green light on the way to your destination. What’s THAT called?

The Murphy-Was-A-Bloody-Optimist Condition. Me, I’ve noticed that in such a condition, I’ll catch just enough of the red light to slow down to a complete stop, and THEN the light will turn green.

IME, in Portland Oregon, they time the lights to about 5-under. I know, because I have paced them on a straight stretch and hit every green (this takes a lot of skill, because you also have to adjust for all the other drivers who do the rush-up-and-stop thing). The speed limit is the fastest you are legally allowed to go on a stretch of road, so they would surely not time the lights for people going faster (except, on West Burnside, where about 15 blocks of lights all turn green simultaneously).

Curiously, there are no “speed limit” signs in Oregon. They say “speed”, the word “limit” is absent.

For the OP’s specific example that seems only natural because bees have been in the news a lot lately, so it’d make sense that people would talk about it.

Priming is definitely the name I’d give to what the OP is asking about, but like Marshmallow, I think it might be a simpler explanation. If many people saw a news piece (or whatever) about bees last week, then it only follows that they’ll be talking and blogging about it more in the days that follow.

The stuff about bee populations in decline has been in the news for several years, though. It is not a new story.