Hide and Seek Psychology

If you look for it, it will be found.

Imagine after all your research, you’ve finally decided on your brand new car and are now heading to the dealership to make your purchase. You’re incredibly happy with your decision and feel confident that it will stand out. You’ve picked a uncommon color and it far away from a Honda Odyssey. No offense against the model, but it is the one I assume of for every family van I see. On your way to the dealership, you suddenly see an identical copy of the car you’re about to purchase, then another, and another. It is as if your decision single-handedly started a trend of dusty blue Jeep Cherokees.

Hiding in Plain Sight

It’s to safe to say you didn’t and the truth is, they were always there. Speeding past you on your way to the local grocer but were unnoticeable yet today, after your decision, there’s a brigade of them. It’s a phenomenon called frequency illusion, or recency bias. Our brains constantly filters information and decides is this worth storing in our conscious? If it is not of value to us, we don’t process it. It passes our vision but doesn’t register. Much like the model or color of the cars we pass every day. Frequency illusion occurs when we learn of something new, we miraculously observe it more often. Your research likely ended in Cherokees and therefore now more likely to notice them on the road.

Seeking the Positive Vibes

At work, frequency illusion can be used to our advantage. The same effects of physical research for a vehicle can translate over to emotional research. If we sit in the parking lot of our office and tense our body for a full day of misery and lambasting everything that is wrong, that’s all we’ll ever find. Conversely, if we sit with excitement, mindfulness, and joy, we’re more likely to notice those throughout the day. Simply telling ourselves “I’m looking for the happy today” ups the chances. What is last on our mind before we embark into the day is what is given priority in our brain and even though that is a subconscious effect of recency bias, we can make the active and crucial choice of what that will be.