Apophenia vs. Randomania

People who don’t believe in synchronicity do so because they believe coincidences are random, meaningless events. You could say they believe in the ‘god of randomness—a condition one psychologist calls ‘randomania.’ When they refer to people who find meaning in coincidence, they often say these folks – ie. many of us here – are suffering from ‘apophenia’—the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.

Sure, it’s a handy term for dismissing synchronicity, but synchro debunkers ought to take a closer look at that term, its origins and its actual meaning. Apophenia was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, a German neurologist and psychiatrist, and member of the Nazi Party. He was referring to a serious mental disorder, not synchronicity or epiphanies.

According to a 2010 research paper about Conrad’s work, the term reflects the fact that schizophrenics initially experience delusion as revelation. “In contrast to epiphany, however, apophenia does not provide insight into the true nature of reality or its interconnectedness, but is a process of repetitively and monotonously experiencing abnormal meanings in the entire surrounding experiential field.” For example, a sense of “being observed, spoken about, the object of eavesdropping, followed by strangers.”

I can’t help wondering that some of these people experiencing Conrad’s apophenia in Nazi Germany  weren’t crazy at all. It seems there was plenty of reasons at that time and place for people to think they were being observed, spoken about, the object of eavesdropping, and followed by strangers.

Besides that point, Aaron Mishara, writing in The Schizophrenia Bulletin, says that “‘apophenia’ is a misnomer that has taken on a bastardized meaning never intended by Conrad.” In other words, Conrad wasn’t talking about people who experience meaningful coincidence.

Yet, the term is still often used in academia for people who experience synchronicity and other psychic phenomena. From Wikipedia, “In statistics, apophenia is called a Type I error, seeing patterns where none, in fact, exist. It is highly probable that the apparent significance of many unusual experiences and phenomena are due to apophenia, e.g., ghosts, and hauntings, EVP, numerology, the Bible Code, anomalous cognition, ganzfeld ‘hits,’ most forms of divinations, the prophecies of Nostradamus, remote viewing, and a host of other paranormal and supernatural experiences and phenomena.”

Arch-skeptic Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptical Magazine, apparently has come to his senses enough to recognize that people who believe in synchronicity aren’t necessarily headed for the loony bin, though in his musings he would not doubt prefer it that way. (Sorry for reading your mind, Michael.) In fact, Shermer takes the position that most people see such patterns and attribute meaning to them where there is no meaning. Notice how Shermer has decided for all of us that coincidences are meaningless, random events. Instead of calling it apophenia, though, Shermer in 2008 coined the term ‘patternicity’ — “the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency.”

Psychologist David Luke takes umbrage with the likes of Shermer and the belief that everything is random and those who experience synchronicity are simply misguided – if not becoming psychotic. So in 2011, Luke coined a new term, ‘randomania,’ the tendency to attribute chance probability to apparently patterned data. In other words, the opposite of apophenia or Shermer’s patternicity.

In other words, Luke is taking the opposite point of view of Shermer. In an article in The Journal of Parapsychology, he writes that randomania is seen in people who dismiss psychic phenomena, such as precognition and telepathy, “even if scientific research suggests that the phenomena may be genuine.”

David Luke has a supporter in former Army-CIA remote viewer Joe McMoneagle.  When we told him that skeptics label remote viewing a Type I Error  apophenia – he had this to say:


“That’s why there have been over 40,000 remote viewings in dozens of experiments replicated in more than a dozen research labs in seven countries over the past ten years; nineteen years of RV support to every major intelligence collection agency in America; and I personally have done more than 100 successful demonstrations of RV [double blind] on major television channels in seven countries – and have demonstrated it using children from two schools located more than six hundred miles apart on Channel Four in Japan; found 50% of the missing people I’ve looked for in Japan [out of 28] over a six year period [all double blind]; supported five physics research inquiries using RV to describe sub-quantum particles, to include the single largest high energy strike on the Earth in our written history by targeting the past; and demonstrated five out of five precognitive targets with unequivocal correct results [judged blind and filmed] . . . . . . I did it all because I suffer from apophenia Type I errors.

“Excuse me; but give me a f-ing break. These people are totally delusional.”


Whoa, talk about turning the tables! I should mention that if you want to read more about Joe and his remote viewing, Trish and I have an article in the new issue of NEXUS Magazine. In it, we interview Joe about a remote viewing he did that found ancient aliens on Mars. It’s a fascinating story, especially because the target came from NASA.




This entry was posted in synchronicity. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Apophenia vs. Randomania

  1. Laurence zankowski says:


    Everything is patterns, harmonics, and resonance. If you do not understand, it is not my job to teach you. Life is a better instructor than I will ever be.

    Be well,


    p.s. btw, GO JOE!

  2. Interesting response from Joe McMoneagle! I think it’s often a case of people hearing want they want to hear, as with synchronicity. A change in belief is often a slow process but hopefully it’ll speed up exponentially.

    • Rob and Trish says:

      I love Joe’s response. He nails it.

    • People hold onto cherished beliefs very tightly. There is no one so blind as who will not see. The question is to find those with flexible enough belief between random and divine intervention (the two most common beliefs about what causes coincidences) to find an intermediate cause which is often the person. For those who dismiss coincidences with apophenia or patternicity, the only change might come from a coincidence that hits them directly in their meaning centers.

      • Rob and Trish says:

        Well said!

      • Rob and Trish says:

        I’m not sure that hard-core skeptics will change even by experiencing dramatic synchronicities. In fact, they seem to like reporting their coincidences and then stripping away any meaning by considering all the other times they were in similar situations when no coincidence occurred. I find that explanation puzzling, but it seems to be the primary explanation for dismissing synchronicity. In The Synchronicity Highway, we included an impressive synchronicity told by Shermer and his contorted effort to de-construct it.

  3. Shadow says:

    Whoa, that guy has an opinion! *grin*

    You know, trying to convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced, is tiring… you know, I know… ba humbug to those who don’t want to know…