Posted by: Jack Henry | November 8, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Phenomena

Good morning!

Today I’m stretching our rule of providing information about language—not breaking the rule, just stretching it because there is some language learning going on. You see, I recently read about a human phenomenon, and I wondered where the name of the phenomenon came from, so I did a little research, which took me down a curious rabbit hole, and I found the information interesting enough to share.

Have you ever bought a new car (or a used car that is new to you) and then noticed the same kind of car everywhere you go? Obviously, more of that kind of car did not magically appear overnight, you’re just noticing them all now. This phenomenon is called the Baader-Meinhof effect or frequency illusion.

The same thing happens when you learn a new word (you begin to hear it much more often)—this happened to my friend Jane G. and me with the word borborygmus, which describes the rumbling or gurgling noise in your stomach and intestines. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon also happens when you’re introduced to a song and then you begin noticing it—at the grocery store, or as theme music in your favorite TV show, or at your kid’s recital. According to healthline.com, “When you’re exposed to brand-new information, especially if you find it interesting, your brain takes notice. These details are potentially destined for the permanent file, so they’re going to be front and center for a while.”

Your brain does all kinds of things to help you absorb information (and sometimes it wreaks havoc with your memory). Along with the Baader-Meinhof effect, you might experience something called the Mandela effect, which is basically a faulty memory that you’re convinced is correct. According to livescience.com, “…a 2020 memory study in the journal Psychological Science found that, when asked to recall information, 76% of adults made at least one detectable error…Things that never happened, or events that have become muddled over time, can, in one’s head, become real, and knowledge can become distorted or confused.” It’s called the Mandela effect because although Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa from 1964 to 1990 for opposing apartheid laws, and then he went on to serve as president of the country, and he didn’t die until 2013, many people have a distinct memory of him dying in prison in the ‘80s. In fact, societies collectively share lots of faulty memories. Remember the children’s book Curious George? Remember George’s long tail? You might think you do, but you don’t. Curious George didn’t have a tail, but since most monkeys do have tails, most people remember him having one.

And speaking of memory, another phenomenon our brains experience is the Rashomon effect, which occurs when people who are involved in an incident give contradictory interpretations or descriptions of the incident. This phenomenon is named for the 1950 movie by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, in which various perspectives of the same event are portrayed by various characters—and the perspectives all happen to be self-serving, which is not uncommon with this effect. Neuroscientists say that when we form a memory in the brain, our interpretation is influenced by previous experiences and various internal biases.

I’ve experienced each of these phenomena. I don’t know about you, but my brain plays tricks on me all the time. The other day, I caught it trying to convince me that it would be a good idea to try one of those Onewheel™ skateboards.

I think we’d call that the “Oh, now she’s really gone off the deep edge” phenomenon.

Enjoy your day, and if you do see me on a Onewheel skateboard (which is highly likely now that the idea has taken hold), don’t honk and wave—I’m daring but I’m also incredibly clumsy.

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | jack henry™

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123

Pronouns she/her/hers

Symitar Documentation Services

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Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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