Why am I suddenly seeing my new car on every corner?
Last year I changed my motorcycle and suddenly I saw it everywhere. Recently I learned something new and suddenly I find I hear about it everywhere. My buddy changed his car, then tells me he can see it on every street.
... Well, this may sound familiar to you as it should.
For all these situations, the idea remains the same and seems like science has given it a name after all; you aren't crazy, and me neither, so what's it all about?
It's real and it's called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (pronounced badder mainhoff - 1994 - St. Paul Pioneer)
It's part the long and growing list of cognitive biases such as an attentional bias - The tendency of perception to be affected by recurring thoughts or the bystander effect - The tendency to think that others will act in an emergency. The basic idea is really simple when you think about it.
Based on current findings, this phenomenon should be considered as a trick totally created by your own mind. So it's basically a type of cognitive bias that's in direct relation to the illusion of frequency.
In its simplest form, cognitive bias is when your mind diverges from its normal state and you start rationalizing thoughts and structure out of total nonsense patterns.
Call it a kind of déjà vu or that feeling when you get to the end of the movie and seeing the ending, and then going “of course, that totally makes sense”.
But in all honesty, it really didn't, or at least, you couldn’t have figured it out based on what was available as you were viewing it first, but understandable.
Sometimes it’s simple, but more than usual complex interactions are all around us and it’s very hard to truly predict the end product. But still we get that feeling, I was blind and suddenly I’ve awakened, I see it, I hear it. Or at least we think we do…
That's frequency illusion (2006 - Arnold Zwicky - Stanford University).
This is the combination of two different simultaneous processes: selective attention (the process of focusing on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time) and confirmation bias (favour and remember information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses).
So to wrap things up, it's not that what you just learned is suddenly more present per se, but it's just that your brain is more excited or sensitive to what you've just learned or bought, for example. Not only that, but it also confirms that.
Your brain is basically saying, "This is so cool, I need to see if I can find more.” And so you find yourself more sensitive, it's that simple. So don't get fooled next time it happens to you!
Note: I guess this "weakness" was a great survival reaction back when we were nomads moving from Africa to other places on earth and saw some wild berries in a field... You find, you see them, so you'll be more sensitive for finding the next batch!