A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: numerology

10 Sept 2009
Dear Sir,

I have read a few articles on the web about you and your beliefs. I would like to ask for information regarding recurring numbers.

I have had the number 666, I am not joking, follow me since 1994. My ex-husband was on the USS Hawkbill submarine in 1994, the first time I noticed the number. We had a model of the submarine gifted upon our arrival. The hull number of the submarine was 666. I noticed the number, but didn't consider it anything more than a conversation piece.

From 2001 on I have been constantly followed by this number! Invoices in my work, note of credits, receipt totals, plane seating, distance registered on my sports equipment, telephone numbers, etc. This year it is freaking me out a bit since it is a daily or weekly occurrence, e.g., on the license plate number of the car in front of me in traffic. My portion of a bill for an upcoming convention whose guest speaker is the ex-captain on the submarine 666 was  €2666.

Could you please be of some help or light on the numbers and tell me if I am just crazy? My current husband is a witness that the numbers are appearing! And ever so frequently.

Thank you,

reply: I can assure you that seeing a recurring number does not mean you are crazy. Nor does it mean that the number is following you. You may have run into the number 6549027846 at one time or another but even if it appeared to you again on an invoice or order number, you wouldn't recognize it. But a three digit number like 666 or 338 is one you would recognize if you saw it again.

Humans are always looking for patterns and for significance. Sometimes this is beneficial, as in the case of science. Sometimes this is harmful, as in the case of superstitions. The process of finding meaning and significance in the mundane, the ordinary, the commonplace, and the insignificant is called subjective validation. The number 666 has a long history in the West. But let's not focus on the superstitions and magical thinking related to numbers. Let's concentrate on the issue of recurrence and why we might be led to think that a number is "following" us.

Many people experience recurring numbers, but with different numbers. In our family, the number is 338, which was the number of the street address of a family member. We "see" more occurrences of 338 because we pay more attention to that number than to any other number. We never remember waking up at other times because we don't give those other times any special significance, but if we wake up at 3:38 (or close to it) we pay attention. Same with license plates, prices, numbers in articles or on invoices and bills, etc.

It's a simple matter of selective attending and confirmation bias. We pay attention and remember any occurrence of "our" number and ignore, don't pay attention, and don't remember the thousands of other numbers we come in contact with in the course of our lives.



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