A word that refers to "the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data"
by phil on Sunday Jun 14, 2009 12:33 PM
Reddit's wikipedia subreddit is becoming one of my favorite destinations.
For example, the wikipedia entry for apophenia came up.
Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness".
In statistics, apophenia would be classed as a Type I error (false positive, false alarm, caused by an excess in sensitivity). Apophenia is often used as an explanation of paranormal and religious claims, and can also explain a belief in pseudoscience.
Conrad originally described this phenomenon in relation to the distortion of reality present in psychosis, but it has become more widely used to describe this tendency in healthy individuals without necessarily implying the presence of neurological differences or mental illness. In the case of autistic spectrum disorders, including Asperger's syndrome and individuals who are autistic savants, individuals may in fact be aware of patterns (such as those present in complex systems, large numbers, music, etc) that are infrequently noticed by neurotypical people. Rather than being aware of patterns that do not exist, autistic individuals may be aware of meaningful patterns within situations that appear meaningless to others.