Pareidolia - everywhere faces

Every car has a face: sometimes kind, sometimes aggressive. But have you also seen a screaming pepper, a sad faucet or a laughing house? This facial recognition error in the brain is scientifically called "Pareidolia" – so it’s not just you!

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If you want to shine again with a technical word: The term pareidolia is derived from the Greek words „para“ (beside, past) and „eídōlon“ (form, appearance, image) and can be translated as deviating perception in the sense of „mirage“.

There are experiments that suggest that even unborn babies in the womb react to face-like lights and rhesus monkeys are also increasingly interested in faces. So this tendency is most likely innate and probably evolutionary in that it could be essential for survival. After all, one had to be able to distinguish a tree from an enemy and bite into the sibling instead of the apple not by mistake but only on purpose!

Our brain is also programmed to assess the other person within milliseconds. This includes interpretations about gender, age and mood – is the partner in a mating mood or rather not? What was originally useful in order not to unnecessarily tilt the balance of the house, however, also bears such blossoms that we interpret emotions not only in animals but also in inanimate objects. Don’t trash cans somehow always seem to be unhappy? This does not require much more than two dots, a line and a bracket : – )

Remember, the most beautiful example of using that overflowing imagination is recognizing characters in cloud formations and maybe even making up a story about them. As is done in this super cute book about cloud babies:

According to experts, this widespread phenomenon is due to a mixture of an optical illusion and the viewer’s expectations. After all, we constantly filter our environment through our own (sometimes rose-tinted) glasses, and the mind is particularly clever at imagine missing information – no matter how abstract it sometimes is.

Nervous, tense and neurosis-prone people tend even more strongly to recognize illusory faces in patterns - they already smell danger and literally see ghosts where there are none. Women, with a greater interest in social interaction, also tend to have this faulty vision more often than men. And not surprisingly, saint sightings are more common among strongly religious people. I remember a rather expensive gammy cheese toast with Mother Mary on it. I'd prefer a slice of pineapple instead, but that's often considered blasphemous not only among Italians. The ghost of Elvis Presley has also been spotted in potato chips.

Here’s a small selection of faces I have spotted:

As a study of the „National Institute of Mental Health“ in Bethesda / USA proved, there is a remarkable tendency to recognize a man four times more often in faces that are not very expressive (as in inanimate objects, where only eyes and mouth are needed). Perhaps because we would expect more complex features in women, or we are socially trained to think of men as the ‚default gender‘. There is disagreement about this and it would be worth another separate post. In any case, just like Mickey Mouse, a smiley still needs lipstick, eyelashes or a hair bow to be considered female.

In the art scene, at least, people take advantage of the human tendency to humanize everything with so-called Eyebombing and, in a guerrilla action, stick funny googly eyes on all objects that can’t resist them. I like the idea of beautifying the city in this way and bringing a smile to the faces of passers-by when they accidentally discover them.

Plant pot with eyes

By the way, besides visual pareidolia, there is also the phenomenon of acoustic misperception, where words and voices are heard in background noise – for example, the whisper of the wind in the canopy suddenly calling your name… *huhu*

Update vom 22.04.2023

I had another acute attack of "pareidolia" and document here for you my persecution mania of the last time. After all, clinical pictures are otherwise rather rarely so amusing.

Don't get infected. Otherwise, the only thing that helps is to meet the faces everywhere with a smile. ?

Update vom 17.06.2023

A special form of pareidolia is the "number synchronicity phenomenon," in which people are particularly attracted to certain combinations of numbers. This phenomenon can vary from person to person, depending on which numbers or symbols have meaning for them personally.

For example, I keep noticing the time 22:22 and suddenly I see the number everywhere - whether on my cell phone, the oven, or even on a license plate. It's like magic, as if the universe had aligned itself with my focus.

You might think you're on the trail of a conspiracy - like Jim Carry in the movie "Number 23". But in the end, you just go crazy!

Author SmileGlobetrotter


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