In recent years, the study of meaningful coincidences has been widely debated and researched in a range of disciplines, such as literature, statistics, counselling, therapy, and transpersonal psychology. The psychologist Carl Gustav Jung coined the term synchronicity for coincidences and arguably is the founding father of the scientific investigation of the phenomenon, giving it a mystical trajectory (Jung & Pauli 1952, translated into English, 1955). It stands for the occurrence of two unlikely events falling together, connected through meaning, not causality.
When questioned, the majority of people attribute meaningful coincidences to psi, intuition alongside chance (Coleman et al. 2009). In a paranormal framework, coincidences can be considered spontaneous psychic phenomena (Grattan-Guinness 1983). This is contrary to psychological explanations that revolve around coincidences being be due to fallacies, misunderstanding of chance (Griffiths & Tenenbaum 2007), and other psychological processes (Pletcher 1982). Thus, this latter perspective focuses on the ways in which coincidences are produced by human error.
However, coincidences rely on being spoken about to be ‘out there’ in the world, their existence rests on being told. Coincidences are sculpted, fashioned and cultivated in talk. Thus, moving away from a perspective seeing coincidence as a phenomenon to explain (away), this study seeks to explore the ways in which people construct experiences of coincidences in their everyday lives.
Drawing on the Cambridge Coincidence Collection with more than 8000 coincidence accounts, as well as interviews and other textual and verbal data derived from he Internet, this talk will show hoe cognition is ‘done’ in discourse. This will be exemplified in the device ‘What a coincidence I thought. But it was no coincidence’ – a coincidence identifier followed by a reported thought. Focusing on the ways in which coincidences are talked and written about in everyday life, this talk will present analyses of data showing that coincidences are constructed as ‘ordinary’ in the backdrop of extraordinary events. Thus, the analysis of this discursive construction addresses firstly, the myth of coincidences as extraordinary events, and secondly, the myth of cognition as an inner process.