Apophenia – Definition & Meaning

Apophenia is a term that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It is a psychological phenomenon that refers to the human tendency to perceive patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. This article will explore the different definitions of apophenia, its origin, and its meaning in different dictionaries. It will also discuss the associations, synonyms, and antonyms of apophenia, as well as examples of how it can be used in a sentence.


Apophenia is a term that was first coined by German psychiatrist Klaus Conrad in 1958. Conrad defined apophenia as the experience of seeing connections or patterns in random or meaningless data. He believed that this phenomenon was a symptom of schizophrenia, which he called “the unstructuredness of the schizophrenic world.”
Another definition of apophenia comes from American psychologist and philosopher William James. James described apophenia as the tendency of the human mind to seek out patterns and connections in the world around us. He believed that this was an adaptive trait that helped humans to survive and thrive in their environment.


The word apophenia comes from the Greek words apo, which means “away from,” and phaino, which means “to show or reveal.” The term was first used in the medical field by Klaus Conrad in his book “Die beginnende Schizophrenie” (The Beginning of Schizophrenia) in 1958.

Meaning in different dictionaries

The meaning of apophenia can vary depending on the dictionary you consult. Here are some examples:

  • Merriam-Webster: the tendency to perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things.
  • Oxford English Dictionary: the perception of connections or patterns in random or meaningless data.
  • Dictionary.com: the perception of connections or patterns in random or meaningless data, often associated with paranoia or delusions.
  • Cambridge Dictionary: the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, often associated with mental illness.


Apophenia is often associated with mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. However, it can also be a normal human experience. For example, people may see faces or animals in clouds or patterns in wallpaper. It can also be seen in conspiracy theories, where people believe that unrelated events are connected in a meaningful way.


  • Pareidolia.
  • Patternicity.
  • Agenticity.
  • Confirmation bias.
  • Selective perception.


  • Skepticism.
  • Rationality.
  • Objectivity.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Empiricism.

The Same Root Words as Apophenia

  • Apophysis: a bony outgrowth or projection, such as a process on a vertebra.
  • Apoptosis: programmed cell death, a process that occurs in multicellular organisms.
  • Apogee: the highest point or culmination of something.

Example Sentences

  • The patient’s apophenia was a symptom of their schizophrenia.
  • The conspiracy theorist saw apophenia everywhere, connecting unrelated events to support their beliefs.
  • The artist used apophenia to create a painting that appeared to be full of hidden symbols and meanings.
  • The scientist was careful to avoid apophenia when analyzing their data, in order to ensure that their conclusions were based on evidence and not coincidence.
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