Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Coincidences, serendipity or the selection effect?

Coincidence #1: Today I was driving to work and the same guy, driving the same truck (it was blue and has an Irish flag on the rear window) was driving too slow in the left lane in front of me just like yesterday. What are the chances of that? I was too stunned to get out my phone and take a picture for proof, I will try to get in the habit of that.

Coincidence #2: Before I left work I actually checked the weather on my Treo because I was unsure what coat I would need, and I thought to myself how this week the weather has been so changeable (45 one day up to 70 the next and down to 50 today, rain and sun). Then today I get to work and on the way in a random coworker who I have never seen before says hello and comments on how it has been so difficult to know what to wear this week due to the changing weather.

Are these two incidents coincidence or serendipitous? If these type of things happen all the time and all I did today was notice them then I am suffering from the data selection effect wherein the observer only counts the times when a coincidence occurs but not all the times when it doesn't. Do two coincidences in one day count as a coincidence in and of itself?

Have you ever wondered how in the stories in novels and in the movies everything tends to fit together really well. There are no wasted pages or film (Siskel and Ebert's law of conservation of film), and coincidences bring the main characters together to make a good performance. I imagine the films and books as alternate universes much the same as our own but where the serendipity meter is turned up. Sometimes it is turned up real high, like in Spielberg movies and in British crime black comedies.

I wonder if someone turned up my serendipity meter today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I think the same thing myself sometimes. You might want to read the book The Celestine Prophecy if you haven't already. It talks about coincidences..