Sep 20, 2009

Pareidolia - Why We See Faces in Things :-)

Source: Marco Annunziata

Pareidolia seems like the name for an obscure sex crime, but in fact it is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse.

It's the reason why the above picture can look simultaneously like a face and...whatever in the world it actually is. It's why this :) or this :-) or even this :D can look like a face out of context. It's really an amazing phenomenon, and it also proves how easily our brains can be "tricked" into seeing something that is not actually there.

Here is another example:

The above picture looks, to some, like a person or other creature clinging to the side of the tree. I think you get the point, but it makes for an interesting take on reality. I, myself, am not very hard-wired to see faces in inanimate objects. I will if prompted - for example, if I visit a web site like the wonderful blog 'Faces in Places' - but I do not, in general, see objects as other things well.

A biological supposition - put forth by Carl Sagan - posits that we are genetically "hard-wired" for this kind of action. From Wikipedia:

Carl Sagan hypothesized that as a survival technique, human beings are "hard-wired" from birth to identify the human face. This allows people to use only minimal details to recognize faces from a distance and in poor visibility but can also lead them to interpret random images or patterns of light and shade as being faces.

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