What Is Synchronicity?

Synchronicity is attributing deeper meaning to simple coincidences. People might interpret two separate experiences as being deeply intertwined when in reality there is no evidence that one led to the other. For example, someone might have a dream about a friend they haven’t seen in a while, and the next day, they run into that friend on the street. The next time the person has a dream about the friend, the person might be convinced he will encounter the same friend. The concept was developed by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung in the early 1900s. Jung himself believed in synchronicity and wrote extensively about the notion. However, tendencies such as the confirmation bias may offer a more compelling explanation: People seek out information to support their ideas and ignore information that challenges them. People also make stronger connections with an internal experience when the accompanying event is memorable rather than mundane.

Why Do We See Patterns That Aren’t Real? It can be easy to spot patterns that don’t truly exist. Why are people so susceptible to this tendency? Experts theorize that, from an evolutionary perspective, pattern recognition was likely beneficial for survival: Ancient ancestors learned to predict possible threats. For instance, they might realize that lions appear in the late afternoon, so it’s safest to stay inside at that time of day. Today, children still organize their world into categories—right and wrong, reward and punishment—to provide structure during early development. Humans are wired to impose structure and meaning in their lives. If they come across two events that seem related, they might categorize them together unconsciously, even if there’s no logical relationship between the two.


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