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Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Reviewed by expert Scientifically proven

What is the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon? It has a strange name. Even if you've never heard of it, chances are you've seen or will soon see this fascinating occurrence. In a nutshell, the Baader-Meinhof effect is a frequency bias. Something fresh has caught your attention, or at least it has for you. It might be a term, a dog breed, a home design, or just about anything else. You become acutely conscious of that item all over the place all of a sudden. In actuality, there has been no rise in the number of cases. It's only that you've become aware of it.

Table of contents:
  1. Explaining the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon
  2. Why does it happen?
    1. Baader-Meinhof phenomenon in science
    2. Baader-Meinhof phenomenon in medical diagnosing
    3. Baader-Meinhof in marketing
  3. Why is it called 'Baader-Meinhof'?
  4. The Baader-Meinhof Gang
  5. How to overcome the Baader Meinhof phenomenon?
  6. Conclusion
  7. Baader Meinhof effect example

Explaining the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

We've all been in that situation. Just the other day, you heard music for the first time. You can now hear it anywhere you go. It's impossible to get away from it. Is it the music, or are you to blame? Understandably, you're hearing the music a lot of it recently achieved number one on the charts and is receiving a lot of airplay. If, on the other hand, the music turns out to be an oldie that you've only lately discovered, you may be suffering from the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or the sense of frequency.

It's the difference between something that happens frequently and something you're beginning to notice frequently. When you become more conscious of something, the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or the Baader-Meinhof effect, occurs. This gives the impression that it is happening more frequently, even if this is not the reality.

Why is your mind playing games with you? Don't be concerned. It's quite natural. Put, your brain is reinforcing freshly learned knowledge. This is also known as:

  • frequency illusion
  • recency illusion
  • selective attention bias

It's also known as red (or blue) vehicle syndrome, and for a good reason. You chose last week to purchase a red automobile to stand out from the crowd. You're now surrounded by red automobiles every time you pull into a parking area. This week, there are no more red automobiles than there was last week. Strangers did not rush out and purchase red vehicles to deceive you. It's just that your mind has been pulled to red automobiles since you made the decision. While this is usually innocuous, it can become an issue at times. Frequency bias can cause you to think something that isn't true if you have certain mental health issues like schizophrenia or paranoia, and it can worsen your symptoms.

Why does it happen?

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon sneaks upon us, and we typically aren't aware of it until it's too late. Consider all you're exposed to in a single day. It's just impossible to take in all of the information. Your brain is in charge of selecting which items deserve your attention and which may be ignored. Your brain may readily dismiss information that does not appear to be important at the time, and it does so daily. Your brain takes attention when you're exposed to new knowledge, especially if it's engaging. Because these facts might end up in the permanent file, they'll be front and center for a time.

Baader-Meinhof phenomenon in science

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon can cause complications in scientific study, even though it is typically innocuous. Because the scientific community is made up of people, they are susceptible to frequency bias. When this happens, it's simpler to spot evidence that supports the bias while overlooking data that contradicts it. That is why researchers take precautions to avoid bias.

"Double-blind" experiments are presumably familiar to you. When neither the participants nor the researchers know who is receiving which therapy, it's one technique to avoid the problem of "observer bias" on the part of anyone. The frequency illusion can pose issues in the judicial system as well.

For example, eyewitness testimonies are frequently inaccurate. Our memories can be influenced by selective attention and confirmation bias. Frequency bias can sometimes lead criminal investigators in the wrong direction.

Baader-Meinhof phenomenon in medical diagnosing

You want your doctor to be well-versed in diagnosing and interpreting symptoms and test results. Many diagnoses rely on pattern identification, yet frequency bias might cause you to detect a pattern where none exists. Doctors read medical publications and research papers to keep up with the practice of medicine. There's always something new to learn, but they must be cautious of diagnosing a problem in a patient simply because they read about it lately. Frequency bias might cause a harried clinician to overlook possible alternative diagnoses. This occurrence, on the other hand, can be used as a teaching tool. Kush Purohit, a third-year medical student, wrote to Academic Radiology's editor in 2019 to share his firsthand experience with the problem. Within the next 24 hours, he discovered three additional examples of "bovine aortic arch," a disease he had recently heard about. Purohit proposed that using psychological phenomena like Baader-Meinhof might aid radiology students by allowing them to understand fundamental search patterns and the ability to see facts that others might miss.

Baader-Meinhof in marketing

The more you know about something, the more probable it is that you will want it. At least, that's what some marketers believe. That's probably why you keep seeing certain advertising in your social media feeds. Many a marketing guru's dreams are to become viral.

Seeing something emerge often might lead to the mistaken belief that it is more desired or popular than it is. Maybe it's a new trend, and many people are buying the goods, or maybe it's simply an illusion. If you spend some time researching the product, you could come away with a different viewpoint. If you don't think about it, viewing the ad again may merely reaffirm your prejudice, making you more inclined to use your credit card.

Why is it called 'Baader-Meinhof'?

Arnold Zwicky, a linguist at Stanford University, coined the phrase "recency illusion" in 2005, describing it as "the assumption that things YOU have seen just lately are recent." He also talked about the "frequency illusion," which he defined as "once you observe a phenomenon, you assume it happens a lot."

The frequency illusion, according to Zwicky, is caused by two mechanisms. The first is selective attention, in which you focus on the things that are most interesting to you while ignoring everything else. The second is confirmation bias, which occurs when you seek evidence that supports your point of view while ignoring evidence that contradicts it. These mental habits are very certainly as old as humanity.

The Baader-Meinhof Gang

The Baader-Meinhof Gang, also known as the Red Army Faction, was a terrorist organization active in West Germany during the 1970s. So you're undoubtedly wondering how a terrorist gang's name came to be associated with the idea of frequency illusion. As you might expect, it appears to have been spawned by the phenomena itself. It might have started on a message board in the mid-1990s when someone learned of the Baader-Meinhof gang and then heard numerous more mentions of it in a short period. The notion became known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon due to a lack of a better term. And it stayed with me.

How to overcome the Baader Meinhof phenomenon?

To put it another way, you can't get around the impact. Awareness is the only way to have control over your actions. When you're on the market for a new watch, bike, or clothing, you'll notice it all around you. You can't train your brain to escape such scrutiny no matter what you do. Your mind has been programmed to work in this manner through evolution. But the next time you come across such an impact, all you have to do is remember why it occurred. You can prevent negative effects such as making a poor decision or spending more money.


The Baader Meinhof effect is one of the brain's less detrimental cognitive biases. It's easy to recognize since you'll notice anything unusual when it happens. Other mental faults, such as confirmation bias, anchoring effect, and clustering illusion, occur without your understanding and impact your judgments without realizing it. As a result, the Baader Meinhof effect is a less difficult cognitive bias to overcome. Frequency bias will occur often. Do not believe you've gone insane. When you come face to face with it again, don't try to battle it; instead, move with care and don't allow it to affect your choice.

Baader Meinhof effect example

Social retargeting is the best example of this principle. Here we've searched for reMarkable tablet and we see it in every instagram stories.

Baader Meinhof effect example of retargeting screenshot

Another example would be to add lastly viewed product on a slider bar on product detailed page.

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Example of hypothesis applied

If we add last viewed products on a slider bar, then conversions for all users on mobile devices will increase, because of irrational escalation.

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