Coincidence?

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slavereeno
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Coincidence?

Post by slavereeno »

Is there a term in psychology for when a person or people take a coincidence and mentally turn it into a supernatural event?

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Res Ipsa
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Re: Coincidence?

Post by Res Ipsa »

Could be paradolia.
​“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”

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I have a question
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Re: Coincidence?

Post by I have a question »

“When we are confronted with evidence that challenges our deeply held beliefs we are more likely to reframe the evidence than we are to alter our beliefs. We simply invent new reasons, new justifications, new explanations. Sometimes we ignore the evidence altogether.” (Mathew Syed 'Black Box Thinking')

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Maksutov
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Re: Coincidence?

Post by Maksutov »

"Religion". :biggrin:
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Benjamin McGuire
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Re: Coincidence?

Post by Benjamin McGuire »

There isn't such a term.

In a sense, if you start with a foundational belief in the supernatural (in some form or other) then a supernatural explanation can be quite rational. It wouldn't be rational at all to someone else without such a foundational belief. The challenge is that your question presents both a cause and effect so to speak. So I will backtrack a moment. Coincidence is where we can draw connections between two things where there is no causality. Historically, this has been broken into two different categories (effectively proposed by the psychology community). One of these is Apophenia (suggested by I have a question), where the connections are created where there is no causality, and there is no actual meaningful connection (that is, drawing the connection isn't rational in any sense - it becomes a symptom of mental illness). Carl Jung on the other hand coined the term synchronicity, which describes a connection that is meaningful but has no known causality. Jung actually believed that this distinction would help him move the study of paranormal events (or the supernatural) into the realm of scientific inquiry (although this view has been rejected by the scientific community).

It is human nature to assume that connections that we believe are meaningful have causation (and thus are not coincidental). And when individuals don't have the expertise to evaluate causality, they regularly fall back on the meaningfulness of the connection as a substitute for causality, or they propose causes that are effectively untestable within their foundational assumptions. So if you have a foundational assumption that the supernatural (or in the case of religion, the divine) is a reasonable or rational cause, then it can become a default position for some things as opposed to the idea of coincidence (especially when employed in defense of existing belief systems). And this isn't itself irrational or abnormal (and so it doesn't have a special label).

And when we get to discussions (and perhaps we could use the recent Bayesian analysis of the Book of Mormon as an example), what we see is that evidence and proofs are often presented, not in terms of causality (which is how we should be contesting the claim of coincidence) but in terms of meaningfulness. The statistical argument, that the odds against something are really low/high, is usually an argument for meaningfulness (and not for causality). This shows up very broadly whenever we discuss parallels (textual, historical, whatever). And in fact, one of the long standing criticisms of synchronicity has been that it encourages people to stop looking for causality the moment that we decide a connection is meaningful. This happens regularly within arenas where scientific investigation is difficult (if not impossible). And this is why it is often employed within pseudo-science, in paranormal research, and of course, within religion. Lately, as our tools and models of looking at statistics and probability have gotten better, these ideas have often been masked behind a veneer of legitimacy. The idea behind a lot of these approaches is to make the argument that the statistics (the modeling and math) argue for a necessary meaningful connection, with an inferred or implied, but not discovered causality. These approaches rely on the idea that it is impossible that this could have happened, and so there must be a cause (even if that cause involves invoking a supernatural explanation). And of course this is built into the modeling. We see the same sort of thing from proponents of intelligent design. At the same time, the obvious foundational assumptions are excluded (which in these cases is a big problem). If the chance of supernatural is considered 0% and you multiply that into the mix, then what is the outcome? In any case, again, this argument is all about trying to show the meaningfulness of a perceived connection. And then this meaningfulness is substituted for causality.

With the Book of Mormon we routinely see this problem in the arguments from parallels (from both critics and believers). Anytime anyone argues that the parallel is too unlikely to be coincidence this idea of synchronicity is being employed. And if I look at the recent Bayesian study, there are all sorts of red flags for me. Some of them are in the language. Every time I see rather arbitrary selections of concrete numbers, along with the claim that these are "conservative" figures, red flags go up. Again, this is an argument about meaningfulness (which is usually subjective) and not causality. Then we have the the problem of interpretation. The whole discussion of 'going up' or 'going down' and making this a literal reference to elevation is problematic. Especially when we use those terms in our language today in very different ways. Am I heading down to Jacksonville? Am I going up to Chicago? And in the Old Testament (and in places where this language is quoted in the Book of Mormon), there is a use of this language which is metaphorical and not simply geographical. And so Nephi writes: "And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt" - this cannot possibly be a topographical reference at all. And so the strength assigned to this parallel becomes problematic, because as texts are read, it has to be interpreted first, and when we are dealing with textual analysis that interpretation itself has to be considered a part of the process and not simply assumed. Anyways, there are lots of other issues (since we are comparing texts here - not a text to history but the Book of Mormon to Coe's volume), my published discussion on parallelomania is helpful in analyzing the parallels presented, and there are real issues with them. And I am confident that there are many ways to re-evaluate the data in that paper that would contest its accuracy and process - without having to resort to the more fundamental question of the existence of the supernatural.

But to get back to the question, there is something absolutely normal and human about the idea that if something looks meaningful then there must be causality. And there isn't anything abnormal about people invoking the supernatural in the absence of knowledge or appropriate analytical tools (especially since our brains don't like unconnected facts, bit prefer narratives) - as long as they start with the default position of a belief in the supernatural.

So the answer to your question is that there really isn't anything abnormal about what you describe - even if you find the notion to be irrational in any particular context because for you, there needs to be a big zero multiplied in there every time the notion of the supernatural is required. So we don't have a psychological term to describe this. We just don't mentally like the idea of coincidence.

As a final note, I think it's also appropriate to point out the corollary. The idea that meaningful connections require a naturalistic explanation (for lack of a better term) is just a problematic when the argument is also primarily about trying to establish a meaningful connection. When we take the Book of Mormon, and produce a similar list (as this study did) to contemporary sources, produce some sort of statistical valuation to demonstrate meaningfulness, and then assume that it must be borrowing from or reliant on those sources is just as problematic in its own way. In the long run, making an argument about meaningfulness doesn't actually make the argument that similarities are not in fact coincidences.

And if you want a technical discussion of all this (in a way that is probably much more accurate than what I wrote), you can find it here:

https://www.academia.edu/37016397/Coinc ... _cognition

This article attempts to move beyond the sort of binary picture I discuss above, but in the process, covers most of the basic ground that I do.

Abstract:

Believers tend to view the experience of coincidences as evidence for a variety of paranormal beliefs in mind and mysterious causal mechanisms out in the world. On the other hand, skeptics (e.g. most psychologists) tend to dismiss the psychological experience of coincidences as just yet one more demonstration of how irrational people can be. Irrationality in this context means an association between the experience of coincidences and biased cognition in terms of poor probabilistic reasoning and a propensity for paranormal beliefs. In this article, we present a third way: the rationalist perspective on the psychology of coincidence occurrence. We develop this new emphasis, including a new definition of coincidence, out of reviewing and synthesizing the extant literature on coincidences. We then propose a new three stage model to describe the psychological experience of coincidence, the 3C's model: 1. (C)oincidence detection, 2. (C)ausal mechanism search 3. (C)oincidence versus cause judgment. The core principles in this model are that people use the same properties relevant for causal reasoning when detecting and evaluating events that are ultimately judged to be coincidental, and we describe how the model can account for the key prior research on coincidences. Crucially, rather than just being examples of irrationality, we argue that the experience of coincidences is a necessary consequence of rational causal learning mechanisms and provides a widely ignored approach to evaluating the mechanisms of causal reasoning.

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Res Ipsa
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Re: Coincidence?

Post by Res Ipsa »

Benjamin, after I read the Dales’ paper, I searched the Interpreter for other discussions of parallels. I found your paper and thought it did a very good job of outlining the problems with using parallels as evidence. I concluded that either the Dales did not consider your paper or convinced themselves that Bayes was a panacea for the problems you outlined.
​“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”

― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951

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moksha
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Re: Coincidence?

Post by moksha »

Mopologetics?
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subgenius
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Re: Coincidence?

Post by subgenius »

slavereeno wrote:Is there a term in psychology for when a person or people take a coincidence and mentally turn it into a supernatural event?

though not specific to your parameters, inasmuch as it also applies to someone who turns a supernatural event into a coincidence -
"Believing in the significance of oddities is self-aggrandizing"

do you consider it a coincidence that observation can change things, that thoughts affect the world ? Do events with a global impact influence consciousness and the functioning of machines?

I do not think it is correct, or wise, to propose or even assume that intrinsic significance is lacking with every unusual event that occurs in life.
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Re: Coincidence?

Post by Fence Sitter »

Benjamin McGuire wrote:In a sense, if you start with a foundational belief in the supernatural (in some form or other) then a supernatural explanation can be quite rational.


Ben,

I usually enjoy your posts but you totally lost me here. This is the same as saying:

If I start with a belief in the irrational then the irrational can be quite rational.

Well duh.
"Any over-ritualized religion since the dawn of time can make its priests say yes, we know, it is rotten, and hard luck, but just do as we say, keep at the ritual, stick it out, give us your money and you'll end up with the angels in heaven for evermore."

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Re: Coincidence?

Post by Benjamin McGuire »

It is sometimes difficult to remember what was going through my mind when I write things down ... but I think that what I was thinking was that the OP was asking if within the field of psychology there was a label put on to this sort of behavior as if it was some sort of deficiency or abnormal state. And if that was the implication, then the answer is that there isn't a label of this sort because belief in God isn't generally considered to be irrational. (I say generally because belief that you are that God - or something along those lines - could be symptomatic of a real problem).

I think that while I often disagree with many people over their beliefs, I try to differentiate between when I view another point of view as irrational based on the gap between my own experience and knowledge and when I view it as completely irrational under any normal context. And to further clarify, I think I was (as I recall) deliberately trying to avoid the question of whether or not a belief in God is irrational. I think in general, practitioners in the field of psychology (many of whom are individuals of faith) also tries to avoid this question - except, of course, when it falls outside of what we might label as normal parameters. And this is why I started with that statement. I think that there are a lot of people who believe things that would be irrational for me to believe.

Does that help explain it?

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Re: Coincidence?

Post by Amore »

subgenius wrote:
slavereeno wrote:Is there a term in psychology for when a person or people take a coincidence and mentally turn it into a supernatural event?

though not specific to your parameters, inasmuch as it also applies to someone who turns a supernatural event into a coincidence -
"Believing in the significance of oddities is self-aggrandizing"

do you consider it a coincidence that observation can change things, that thoughts affect the world ? Do events with a global impact influence consciousness and the functioning of machines?

I do not think it is correct, or wise, to propose or even assume that intrinsic significance is lacking with every unusual event that occurs in life.

I agree. Metaphysical discoveries haven’t been understood enough to state confidently what they mean in practice, only the mere act of observing changes subatomic behavior.

“When physicists, during similar experiments, tried to determine with the help of instruments which slit the electron actually passes through, the image on the screen had changed dramatically and become a “classic” pattern with two illuminated sections opposite to the slits and no alternating bands displayed.

Electrons seemed not wanting to show their wave nature under the watchful eye of observers. Did they manage to follow their instinctive desire to see a clear and simple picture. Is this some kind of a mystery? There is a more simple explanation: no observation of a system can be carried out without physically impacting it.”

https://in5d.com/5-thought-provoking-qu ... -illusion/

A more common proof of metaphysical or thought-based influence on physical matter is the placebo effect. Who’s to say exactly how the placebo & nocebo effects are affecting us right now? How would you determine it - except by considering others’ observations and theories...
http://www.vitalaffirmations.com/health ... Q_EZyVMHv4

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