The experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined in 1958 by Klaus Conrad, who defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness".
Conrad originally described this phenomenon in relation to the distortion of reality present in psychosis, but it has become more widely used to describe this tendency in healthy individuals without necessarily implying the presence of neurological or mental illness. It has been suggested that apophenia is a link between psychosis and creativity.
In statistics, apophenia is called a Type I error, seeing patterns where none, in fact, exist. It is highly probable that the apparent significance of many unusual experiences and phenomena are due to apophenia:
- Ghosts and hauntings: alleged disembodied spirit of dead people who are perceived to take up residence in a house which is said to be "possessed" or "haunted".
- EVP: Electronic Voice Phenomenon or the alleged communication by spirits through tape recorders and other electronic devices. The belief includes hearing voices of spirits and aliens, proving there is life after death or in outer space.
- Numerology: the study of the occult meanings of numbers and their influence on human life. Supposedly, through numerology a person can see all the diverse parts of one's personality and how they uniquely come together to make a person who he/she is.
- The Bible code or the Torah Code: a numerical-letter code that is supposed to be embedded in the Bible by God. The code is revealed by searching for equidistant letter sequences (ELS).
- Anomalous cognition: refers to ESP, including telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and remote viewing.
- Ganzfeld "hits": "total field" experiments which have been hailed by many parapsychologists as providing scientific proof of telepathy or clairvoyance.
- Most forms of divination: the attempt to foretell the future or discover occult knowledge by interpreting omens or by using paranormal or supernatural powers with various items.
- The prophecies of Michel Nostradamus: a 16th-century French physician and astrologer. His modern followers see him as a prophet. His prophecies have a magical quality for those who study them: They are muddled and obscure before the predicted event, but become crystal clear after the event has occurred.
- Remote viewing: the alleged psychic ability to perceive places, persons and actions that are not within the range of the senses. Remote viewing might well be called psychic dowsing (trying to locate objects by occult means).
- A host of other paranormal and supernatural experiences and phenomena.