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Why do we see faces in everything?

Posted by c. wagner on November 9, 2009

There’s a word for the human ability to see something meaningful in random forms.

It’s “pareidolia”. From Wikipedia:

Pareidolia (pronounced /pærɪˈdoʊliə/) 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. The word comes from the Greek para- (“beside”, “with”, or “alongside”—meaning, in this context, something faulty or wrong (as in paraphasia, disordered speech)) and eidolon (“image”; the diminutive of eidos (“image”, “form”, “shape”)). Pareidolia is a type of apophenia.

This is phenomenon behind Rohrschach tests and the sightings of the Virgin Mary in grilled cheese sandwiches and on office building windows, for example.

All it takes is three dark spots for humans to start seeing a face. Is the sandwich miraculous or is the human brain miraculous for turning random blots into a face?

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