Synchronicity and confirmation bias – a difference

And now for something completely different.

The concept of synchronicity is quite simple – it is a subjective feeling that two events are meaningfully related. For example, I look for information on problem A, then in my spare time I listen to an overdue issue of a biotech podcast that happens to have guests from a virology podcast, which I then decide to check out, and I find out that a new episode of this second podcast has the answer to my problem A in it. Amazing synchronicity – I found a solution for a problem not looking for it, and in a place that I would have not expected it. It feels meaningful for me, and gives me a lot of joy. Another example – I talk about effects of sword cuts with friends, and then suddenly a person from another side of the globe who is not involved in this discussion sends me on Facebook his pictures of the test-cutting that he did this day, and that illustrate precisely the point I was trying to make in a discussion. Wow! What are the odds of that?

However, from an objective standpoint synchronicity is simply a coincidence. Regardless of how meaningful this event is for me, for other people there is no such connection. Unless they share my belief system, or I manage to convince them otherwise. But in general, people not involved in solving problem A will look at the virology podcast, they will not get butterflies in their belly, and will say that there is nothing unusual about it. And from their perspective they are right.

Synchronicities, when they happen, really do add meaning to our lives, and push us into the state of mind closer to “being in the zone”. That is if we allow them to do it. They might create an impression, that there is an invisible hand that guides our destiny, and lead us forward, making the life easier and lighter. Why not use this to our advantage? Life without synchronicities is tiresome, boring, and gray. Synchronicity provides me with a moment of awe and wonder, in which I can immerse myself, take a deep breath, and appreciate life more. Screw objectivism, this feels good! And it makes a great story as well! (Which is probably why it feels this way, but it’s another matter entirely).

But then, don’t overdo it. If you start actively looking for synchronicities, then you are actually employing a strategy to find meaning, where there is none. This strategy is called confirmation bias. You know there is a meaning, and you are simply looking for signs to confirm your preconceived idea. What you find can give you peace of mind (or sometimes a headache, if you happen to find something you weren’t looking for), but in the end you are only deluding yourself, and chasing dreams and shadows of meaning, not the real meaning itself. Stop. Cease and desist.

The trick is not to be too active but observant and open to new experiences, and surprises. Synchronicities do happen. But their only magic is in our heads. Embrace the magical moment of inner realization, and don’t make the mistake of trying to enter the same river twice. This is not going to happen. Move on, wait for another day and another miracle.

Life happens to be beautiful. From one synchronicity to the next.

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About Bart Walczak

I'm a video editor, and an aspiring colorist and VFX artist, with some experience in desktop publishing, web development and programming.
This entry was posted in musings on life, psychology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Synchronicity and confirmation bias – a difference

  1. Serendipity comes to mind.

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