In the aftermath of every tragic event, there’s always someone who narrowly missed out on it. Think of those who didn’t go to work in the World Trade Center on 9/11 or who missed a connecting flight on a plane that crashed. And they almost always see mystical forces at work, usually thinking that God just loves them more than all the people who died. But the mother of a child at Sandy Hook elementary is now convinced that her son is psychic, which saved him from the shootings.
Karen Dryer‘s worst nightmare started to unravel when her young son Logan Dryer, 5, became so anxiety ridden when he went to kindergarten at Sandy Hook Elementary School that she decided to pull him out of school just two weeks before the deadly massacre.
Like any parent, Karen could not understand why her usually happy, healthy son Logan all of a sudden started having panic attacks while in school. Little did she know, that like her own late mother, her son had the gift to foresee the future…
“My mother, Milly, who passed away a couple of months ago was very psychic, and I know now without a doubt that my son has the same gift.”
Yes, and lots of people “know without a doubt” that the moon landing was fake, that they’re the reincarnation of Napoleon and that the earth is hollow and filled with people. Ben Radford points out the obvious:
But that logic is common fallacy with a Latin name: post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of it”). Because the human mind seeks connections, people often misattribute causes, thinking that, “B happened after A did, so A must have caused B.” Logan expressed anxiety and fear about school, and two weeks later that school experienced one of the worst shootings in history. It makes sense—except that it’s not necessarily true. It’s like saying “roosters crow before the sun rises, so the roosters must have made the sun rise.” Just because the boy expressed fear before the tragedy doesn’t mean he knew it was going to happen.
The case for Logan’s psychic or prophetic powers would be much stronger if he had specified what he was concerned about, but he never said anything about guns, a shooting, a tragic day or date, or anyone being harmed or killed. If the boy’s psychic powers were real — and the information specific enough for the police to act on — he might have been able to save dozens of innocent lives.
There’s another cognitive bias at play, one that psychologists call confirmation bias, also known as remembering the hits and forgetting the misses. The human mind more easily remembers events that seem significant in retrospect, and ignores those that don’t. Thus, for example, Dryer vividly remembers (and attaches special significance to) the times when her son expressed fear associated with the school, but not all the times when he acted the same way (on previous occasions or in other settings not related to school) and nothing happened.
Furthermore Logan Dryer was surely not the only child (nor the only five-year-old) among all the students of Sandy Hook Elementary school who expressed anxiety and fears about going to school in the days and weeks before Dec. 14. The only reason it stands out is that something did happen, so the earlier reactions might appear to be prophetic.