Why do I see 9:11 on the clock? [Explained]

An array of clocks set to the same number.

Why do I see 9:11 on the clock again and again? Because the number is special… but not for the reason you were thinking.

You get to work, put away your things, and look at the clock before you begin your day. 9:11 AM. You yawn and check the clock to see if it is time to go to bed. 9:11 PM. On Saturday morning you glance at your microwave’s clock as you pour your cereal. Oh, no, it is 9:11 AM! Why do I see 9:11 on the clock at all times?!


After calming yourself down, you figure it is all a coincidence. A full day passes. You find yourself watching TV one night. During a commercial, you absentmindedly glance at your digital clock. The digital clock numbers read “9:11” and you’re quickly jolted to the present. It can’t be a coincidence any longer, you think.


You can’t go to a doctor and ask, “Why do I see 9:11 on the clock several times a week?” The question is just too weird. Some numerology sites give you some hokey woo-woo answers, but you know that stuff is garbage. What you need is a real answer to give you some piece of mind. That’s what we’ve got for you!


The 11 is Special

11 is a special number.


No, it’s not numerology. It’s clocks and time!


You look at the clock and it is 9:00 even? Instantly forgettable. 9:01? You probably just say it is 9 o’clock. But 9:11? That’s a number that will stick out as it isn’t close to any other number of minutes.


Numbers that end in 0 or 5 are essentially instantly forgettable. In our neatly organized timeboxes, they fit right where they should go. Similarly, our minds conveniently collapse minutes too close to the 3, 6, 9, and 12 numbers on the clock to the closest 15-minute amount. 


In our organized minds, none of the other numbers matter.


It is only when the minutes end in something that isn’t 0 or 5 and isn’t close to one of the quarter hours that we truly recognize it. Examples include 41, 39, 19, and of course 11. Yet, of all of these examples, 11 is the most powerful. It’s all down to…


Repdigits and the Magic of Repetition and Doubles

Here’s a fun experiment. Look at the following array of numbers and examine each one carefully:

An array of numbers with some repdigits.

What numbers stood out the most to you? We’re sure your age, if listed, was among them. But I’d also be willing to bet a significant amount that the ‘44’ and the ‘99’ stood out prominently to the vast majority of you.


There’s just something magical in our brains about the repetition presented in doubles. A repdigit, the word for when a number has the same digit repeated throughout, is not magical in and of itself, of course. But that isn’t to say there isn’t real science behind the repdigit phenomenon.


A 2020 study from Frontiers in Psychology, by researchers Hidehito Honda, Sota Matsunaga, and Kazuhiro Ueda ran a series of experiments on the effect of repdigits on human judgments and choices. Their findings illuminate why I keep seeing 9:11 on the clock, and repdigits, more than any other source. Rarity.


The participants were presented with a series of four objects to choose from, either a license plate or a numerically labeled wine bottle. The license plates given were 11-11, 11-12, 11-13, and 11-14 in the Japanese style (the participants and researchers were all in Japan) seen below. Which number would you pick? Which number sticks out to you?


If you said “11-11” (and probably thought “make a wish” afterwards) you’re not alone. Around 50% of the participants also chose this number. The reason why I keep seeing 11:11 now starts to look more like a numbers issue than some sort of mystical force. To prove to you that there isn’t a special meaning of 11:11 — or that people weren’t just choosing the first response — the researchers also tested out these license plate choices: 22-21, 22-22, 22-23, 22-24. The results were nearly identical, with 22-22 being the choice of around 47% of the participants.


When the choices were flipped, and three repdigits were displayed with one non-repdigit, the results were also flipped. In this case, participants were more likely to prefer the non-repdigit number. This proved to the researchers that people seek rarity and novelty and not just simple numbers.

The way we choose repdigits on wine bottles based on rarity could help us answer, "Why do I see 9:11 on the clock?"

In a typical hour, the clock’s minute hand only hits repdigits 6/60 times: 00, 11, 22, 33, 44, and 55. We’re unlikely to notice the 00 because we just think of it as a new hour. Similarly, most people will just think of the 44 as a 45 (more on that in a minute), the 55 as “five til,” and the 33 as “half past.” That leaves two significant repdigits out of an hour, the 11 and the 22, or just 1/30 significant numbers.


Repdigits are indeed rare throughout the hour.


Does this mean that we are picking attractive repdigits to notice, as the research suggests might be possible? I think so, but there’s also a lot more to the story and it comes down to culture, history, and how we artificially structure our lives around the arbitrary constraints of time.


Then why do I see 9:11 on the clock and not 11:11? Lark Vs. Owl

So, you’ve bought into the idea that the 11-minute graduation denotes a special number on the clock due to its distance from quarter hours. You’re also convinced that the novelty of repdigits is playing a part in why you see 9:11 on the clock so much. But, then, you think to yourself, “Why do I see 9:11 on the clock so much? Only the minutes are repdigits! If repdigits were behind this whole seeing the same number on the clock repeatedly phenomenon, I should be seeing 11:11 on the clock repeatedly, instead.


Great observation!


The thing is, some people do see 11:11 on the clock repeatedly, not 9:11. In fact, the research that went into this very article started with the number 11:11. It wasn’t until some time later that 9:11 was a more interesting — and perhaps more popular — number to see on your clock repeatedly, day after day.


So, what gives?


The most logical explanation is the comparison of morning larks and night owls. If you wake up early, you’re more likely to have the chance to see 9:11 on your clock twice a day, seven days a week, but likely get tired by 11 o’clock at night. Night owls, or those that think sleep is a waste of time, likely sleep in on the weekends and might choose jobs that help them sleep past 9 o’clock and miss 9:11 AM regularly. They just don’t see it as often.


As a result, even though 11:11 is a better repdigit, 9:11 is a more common time to see over and over on a clock due to the habits of average people. Interestingly enough, our regular habits don’t just highly influence the hour of the time we see again and again. As it turns out, they affect it down to the very minute!


The Missing 22

We’ve established that the two most interesting repdigits the minute hand can point to in an hour are the 11 and the 22. Yet, way more people see 9:11 on their clock repeatedly than see 9:22 on their clock repeatedly. What’s going on?

A joke about not liking the number 22. Quote: "Nobody likes you when you're twenty-two" -Blink 183

22 is culturally maligned.


Nearly every activity that you do starts on the hour. Work? 9 o’clock. Game night with your friends? 7 o’clock.


When you first start a long day at work, you probably take some time to send a few emails, plan out your day, and/or have a quick meeting with your coworkers. Or maybe you get some of your daily two hours of goof-off time in. Whatever it is, after a few minutes of it, you’ll want to get started on your tasks for the day. At that time, you’re bound to check your watch and see 9:11 over and over again, day after day.


Similarly, things also tend to end on the hour as well. The nightly news? Over at 9:00 PM on the dot. Your child’s bedtime? Also probably around 9 o’clock. Afterwards, you might catch up on some dishes, scroll through a work email or two — both activities that tend to cause us to passively look at the time — and, viola, it is 9:11 yet again.


By 9:22 in the morning, you’re already diligently working and not bored enough to start looking at the clock just yet. Due to the arbitrary nature of how we live our lives based on the clock, the time 9:11 is one of the most commonly incidentally seen times in the world. And while we’re on the topic of the world, let’s take a moment to consider the times on a clock seen again and again in other parts of the world.


Why do I see 9:11 on the clock and not 4:44? West Vs. East

Remember our repdigit researchers from up above? There’s a big chance at least one of their acquaintances points out it being 4:44 a few afternoons a year.

Why do I see 9:11 on the clock when others might see 4:44?

Why is that?


There’s a phenomenon in Japan, and other Asian countries, called tetraphobia. Tetraphobia is the fear of the number four and is particularly pervasive in Chinese and Japanese culture. It comes from the Mandarin word for four “si” and the word for death also being “si” (but in a different tone).


Naturally, not all Japanese people fear the number four, but articles on tetraphobia in Japan can make it look like everything from a lighthearted joke to the fear of thirteen on steroids. In any event, the cultural meaning alone is probably enough for average citizens — whether they truly believe four is a dangerous number or not — to think twice when they see the clock strike 4:44.


Based on our conclusions above, however, it still makes sense that even in Japanese and Chinese society there would be a larger portion of the population out there wondering “Why do I see 9:11 on the clock all of the time?” The timing and uniqueness of 9:11 is just too strong, even with cultural factors highlighting other numbers.


But what if… hmm… 9:11 did have a huge cultural significance? That could significantly change how we perceive seeing the number on a clock, even if only subconsciously.


The Meaning of 9:11

The final piece to the seeing 9:11 on a clock repeatedly puzzle is culture.


In a lot of places, and for a lot of people, the number 911 carries a significant meaning. While some people (especially the very young) may simply have September 11th as their birthday, others will closely tie this number to the 9/11 Terror Attacks or the 9-1-1 Emergency Services number.


While Gen Z and kids today can’t exactly remember it, the events of 9/11/2001 were very influential to millennials and older people in the United States, its allied countries, and the Middle East.


For many American millennials, the attacks on the World Trade Center are the most memorable historical event of their youth and represent a sort of turning point in history that hasn’t been repeated since the onset of Covid-19. With the slogan being “Never forget 9/11” how could we?


9-1-1 also has a huge significance in North America, Argentina, the Philippines, and Jordan because it is the designated emergency services number for these areas. For people living here, it could be the number dialed that saves their life or the last number they dial before a friend or loved one is taken from their life forever.



Is there something special about me if I see 9:11 on the clock over and over again? In a way, yes, but it isn’t mystical. Seeing 9:11 on the clock repeatedly, even when you aren’t looking for it, is a byproduct of the idiosyncrasies of the mind, the arbitrary but repeated times we do certain things, and the cultural backdrop we live in. And maybe when you look at it like that, it is a bit special after all.

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