For as long as I can remember patterns have fascinated me. From simple designs like parquet flooring and tessellation to radial patterns of nature’s fractals, all offer a representation of our world and known universe that support understanding and for me a degree of comfort.
Whilst listening to Invisibilia, The Science of Success, Two Guys On Your Head podcasts and watching The Alienist Netflix show (links below) a thought struck about the need for pattern recognition. The interest for me seems to span from an aesthetic (how things look) to the psychological (how our minds interpret information). Questions arise about our need to rapidly recognise patterns and what use we then make of the recognition. The Two Guys episode does well to explain and expand on the idea.
The Invisibilia episode reviews a woman’s attempt to change her life pattern and asks if we too are able to stop and make different choices that support growth and positive outcomes for our lives.
The Science of success episode shares insights on nonverbal communication, micro expressions, and how as humans we can be better at detecting lies with columnist Vanessa Van Edwards.
The Two Guys on Your Head podcast, the doctors of psychology discuss the problems that can arise from seeing things in our minds and not just with our eyes. In essence they reference pattern matching in an artful way.
Art Meets Science
The Alienist has fascinated me too, I started watching the show in late April. I find myself keenly interested primarily as the protagonists are using patterns to solve a crime. The show demonstrates how forensic science and forensic psychology may have come into effect.
Forensic Science Heritage
Albeit in a fictionalised 19th Century New York. Here too a pattern seems to emerge as a stellar team of individuals search for clues and hidden meaning of their own behaviors, and of that of the person responsible for the multiple homicides. The aim of casting the search net so wide, is to understand and stop the person responsible with all accessible means at the investigators’ disposal. What also interests me is that the depiction of late 19th century New York appears to be a close representation of our modern 21st century lives.
The realisation that we are living amongst a number of forming and reforming of continual patterns such as algorithms has had me in a state of wonder ever since I read Eric Hoffer’s True Believer in 2008. Themes appear in all four of the media samples mentioned above which include: attraction, guilt, authority, liberty, sexism, addiction, class and passion. History has a habit of repeating itself as Eric Hoffer has suggested.
We tend to use patterns to help us recognise things as diverse as migration, seasons, crop cycles, stock and share prices, rhythm and bpm, music, clothes, travel, festivals, meals, traffic, weather, sleep and waking cycles and psychological patterns marking the stages of life we all pass through. There are a possibly a million more patterns of life that I will have missed.
As a counsellor the pattern of therapy I find, is similar to that of a story, there usually is a beginning, a middle and an end. At times the beginning and ending can happen in a single appointment. Caleb Carr’s Kreizler series I am intrigued to start reading, as it has inspired the Alienist Netflix series. Usually the book is read first then I watch the adaptation later. Here I am able to witness a break in my own pattern of behaviour.
On a common level we interpret a number of cues to inform ourselves about our lives that include; faces, sounds, smells, tastes, all call upon our ability to make use of a range of stimuli. A face that smiles we could view as friendly, a loud screech of tyres helps us recognise that something on wheels either was braking or accelerating, pleasant aromas of food or scents could alert us to a range of pleasing experiences someone may soon have. We recognise these as a result of experiencing them before and unconsciously process and store them. Once recalled, through action or thought we pattern match and behave almost automatically, almost without thought.
Pattern recognition is a way of interpreting information to support our understanding of what is likely to occur. My fascination with simply being aware of patterns enables me to make more informed choices. To make use of the patterns mentioned what would it be like to become a detective/scientist/artist for a while, curious enough to find out the patterns that involve your life and make sense and meaning from them.
In essence I am enjoying the psychological battle unfolding in the Alienist (episode 5 at the time of writing) as the characters recognise their strengths as a team and some of their weaknesses. The attempt to solve the mystery of the serial killer is a case of playing field chess in fog.
It is a game.
It is baffling and unseen players could move pieces that inspire the win and also the loss.
As in life, the aim is to live well amongst a seemingly ever unfolding pattern.
A pattern that has us at once, confused and often bemused, with a sense of knowing of the way we are still to travel.
And be hopelessly, laughingly and completely lost perpetually…