Where coincidences come from

Julie Beck:

Beitman in his research has found that certain personality traits are linked to experiencing more coincidences—people who describe themselves as religious or spiritual, people who are self-referential (or likely to relate information from the external world back to themselves), and people who are high in meaning-seeking are all coincidence-prone. People are also likely to see coincidences when they are extremely sad, angry, or anxious.

“Coincidences never happen to me at all, because I never notice anything,” Spiegelhalter says. “I never talk to anybody on trains. If I’m with a stranger, I don’t try to find a connection with them, because I’m English.”

Beitman, on the other hand, says, “My life is littered with coincidences.” He tells me a story of how he lost his dog when he was 8-or-9-years-old. He went to the police station to ask if they had seen it; they hadn’t. Then, “I was crying a lot and took the wrong way home, and there was the dog … I got into [studying coincidences] just because, hey, look Bernie, what’s going on here?”