Title 6 – May 2017 KQ 7: In what ways and forms does “pattern seeking “ and “ pattern recognition” appear in different Areas of Knowledge?



Apophenia is the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data. The term was first used by Klaus Conrad to describe the initial stages of Schizophrenia and later translated into English as “apophenia” . Further to this , in 2001 neuroscientist Peter Brugger defined the term as the “unmotivated seeing of connections” accompanied by a “specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness”.

Pareidolia is a type of apophenia involving the perception of images or sounds in random stimuli. Thus , the sound of ringing phone, while taking a shower , face within an inanimate object—the grinning headlights and grill of an automobile or a face in the Moon.

In statistics and machine learning, apophenia manifests itself as Overfitting – when a statistical model fits the noise rather than the signal- by overfitting particular datasets rather than providing a reliable pattern in a general population.

Apophenia serves as a rationalization for gambling and Gambler’s fallacy as the gamblers imagine to see patterns in the numbers which appear in lotteries, card games, or roulette wheels.

In Literature , Pattern Recognition , a novel by science fiction writer William Gibson, examines the human desire to detect patterns or meaning and the risks of finding patterns in meaningless data.

In Library of Babel , Borges tells that the vast majority of the books in this universe are pure gibberish but the library also must contain, somewhere, every coherent book ever written . Now, because of this glut of information, all books appear to be totally useless to the reader, leading some librarians to superstitious and cult-like behaviours.

“In Comparison with Biology , the full possible set of protein sequences has been compared to the Library of Babel. In the Library of Babel, finding any book that made sense was impossible due to the sheer number and lack of order. The same would be true of protein sequences if it were not for natural selection, which has selected out only protein sequences that make sense. Additionally, each protein sequence is surrounded by a set of neighbours (point mutants) that are likely to have at least some function. Daniel Dennett‘s 1995 book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea includes an elaboration of the Library of Babel concept to imagine the set of all possible genetic sequences, which he calls the Library of Mendel, in order to illustrate the mathematics of genetic variation. “

In Finance and Economics, investors and analysts naturally seek and find patterns, frequently when none exist and the probabilistic component in pattern identification is exacerbated by emotions of fear and greed. Including large number of data sets and more variables increases the probability of spurious results and the solution lies only in correct interpretations to identify the ‘true’, meaningful patterns.
“Although pattern recognition certainly has its flaws, technology has made tremendous advances toward algorithms that use pattern recognition effectively. Once we are aware that our brains default to pattern seeking in response to ambiguous situations, it becomes easier to see how we are pre-wired toward cognitive limitation. “