Coincidence Studies Gains a Foothold in Academia

June 26, 2015 Updated: September 28, 2015

Dr. Bernard Beitman will be teaching a course in Coincidence Studies at the University of Virginia this fall. It is the first course of its kind, and a big step toward establishing a formal study of coincidences, something Dr. Beitman has worked toward for years. Probably everyone has experienced a coincidence, some more striking than others—but how much thought have you given to the causes, probabilities, and usefulness of these coincidences in your life? Did you know that it’s possible to increase coincidences in your life?

“I have come to discover the essential features that make coincidences happen, including the personality characteristics and situational factors that serve to increase their frequency. These characteristics and factors proved to be so consistent that I realized we actually do—and can—make our own coincidences,” says Dr. Beitman. 

“We actually do—and can—make our own coincidences.”
— Dr. Bernard Beitman

Coincidences can help people find romance, strengthen family ties, come up with ideas, and achieve many other goals. Sometimes their usefulness lies simply in the sense of wonder they inspire. This is what Dr. Beitman will help his students contemplate in the course, titled “Coincidence Studies: How to Recognize, Use, and Explain Synchronicities.” He also hopes to bring this information to the general public with his book, “Connecting With Coincidence,” which is to be published next year. His website,, already provides a place for people to share the strange coincidences in their lives and to learn more about this emerging field of study. 

Part of establishing a formal study of coincidences is making into more of a science. He has created a Weird Coincidence Survey to help gather statistics. In addition to earlier uses of the survey in his work at the University of Missouri, he has made the survey available to the general public on his website. Over the course of several months, he gathered statistics about the people who took the survey, keeping in mind that they are people who voluntarily came to the survey out of interest and do not represent a slice of the general population. It is interesting, nonetheless, to see characteristics of people who tend to take an active interest in coincidences. One of the interesting findings was that 42 percent ranked themselves as highly spiritual and fewer than 20 percent ranked themselves as low on spirituality. 

Dr. Beitman has created a taxonomy by differentiating types of coincidences. One type of coincidence, for example, involves feeling the distress of a loved one at a distance, which Dr. Beitman calls “simulpathity.” He felt himself inexplicably choking at the same time his dying father was choking some 2,000 miles away. This coincidence and many other personal experiences led Dr. Beitman to start his investigations of this phenomenon. 

“The emerging field of Coincidence Studies … proposes closer connections between mind and environment than are currently accepted in psychiatry and psychology.”
— Dr. Bernard Beitman

He says, “The emerging field of Coincidence Studies … proposes closer connections between mind and environment than are currently accepted in psychiatry and psychology. … Our perceptions of coincidence emerge from swirls of information in our minds juxtaposed with swirls of events in our surroundings. Like two dials being spun by separate hands, the active mind and a pattern of events briefly coincide, causing the mind to note an odd correspondence. The match is often surprising because it seems improbable. But coincidence is more than the unlikely juxtaposition of similar events—the two events must also be meaningfully connected, and the meaning is personal and intricately linked to the person involved.”

Dr. Bernard Beitman
Dr. Bernard Beitman (Courtesy of Dr. Beitman)

Famed psychiatrist Carl Jung is among the thinkers who have provided some background for Dr. Beitman’s studies. Dr. Beitman attended Yale Medical School and completed his psychiatric residency at Stanford University and is currently a visiting professor at the University of Virginia. 

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