The tendency to notice coincidences in one’s life, and to attribute meaning to those coincidences, is stronger in some people than in others. There are a number of neurophysiological and psychological factors that may contribute to this tendency.
Apophenia, for example, is a tendency to perceive meaningful patterns in apparent environmental “noise.” People who process information in a more intuitive mode or who have a spiritual interest may also be more likely to notice coincidences or attribute meaning to them, noted Dr. Bruce Greyson in a paper titled “Meaningful Coincidences and Near-Death Experiences.”
He was citing the work of Stephanie Coleman and Dr. Bernard Beitman, who developed a Weird Coincidence Scale (WCS) to quantify and categorize the frequency of coincidences. Greyson, a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia, used the WCS to measure coincidences in the lives of near-death experiencers.
He found that meaningful coincidences increased in people’s lives after a near-death experience (NDE).
“The major finding of this study was that, among NDErs, the incidence of meaningful coincidence before the NDE was slightly less than that among the general population; meaningful coincidences after the NDE were significantly more frequent,” Greyson wrote.
He concluded: “These data suggest that prior tendency to recognize coincidences and to analyze or interpret them do not lead to spiritual experiences such as NDEs. Rather, spiritual experiences such as
NDEs, and the increased spirituality that typically follows, lead to increased experiences of meaningful coincidence and increased analysis and interpretation of these coincidences.”
Greyson’s paper was published in Psychiatric Annals in December 2011.
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