Pareidolia

Pareidolia

The term pareidolia describes 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.

Examples

Religious

There have been many instances of perceptions of religious imagery and themes, especially the faces of religious figures, in ordinary phenomena. Many involve images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or the word Allah.

In 1978, a New Mexican woman found that the burn marks on a tortilla she had made appeared similar to the traditional western depiction of Jesus Christ's face. Thousands of people came to see the framed tortilla.

The recent publicity surrounding sightings of religious figures and other surprising images in ordinary objects, combined with the growing popularity of online auctions, has spawned a market for such items on eBay. One famous instance was a grilled cheese sandwich with the Virgin Mary's face.

In September, 2007, the so-called "monkey tree phenomenon" caused a minor social mania in Singapore. A callus on a tree there resembles a monkey, and believers have flocked to the tree to pay homage to the Monkey God.

Scientific

From the late 1970's through the early 1980's, Japanese researcher Chonosuke Okamura self-published a famous series of reports titled "Original Report of the Okamura Fossil Laboratory" in which he described tiny inclusions in polished limestone from the Silurian period (425 mya) as being preserved fossil remains of tiny humans, gorillas, dogs, dragons, dinosaurs, and other organisms, all of them only millimeters long, leading him to claim "There have been no changes in the bodies of mankind since the Silurian period . . . except for a growth in stature from 3.5 mm to 1,700 mm.

Rorschach test

The Rorschach inkblot test uses pareidolia to attempt to gain insight into a person's mental state. The Rorschach is a projective test, because it intentionally calls out one's internal thoughts or feelings to be projected onto the cards. Projection in this instance is a form of "directed pareidolia" because the cards are not actually designed to resemble anything.

Audio

In 1971, Konstantin Raudive wrote Breakthrough, detailing what he believed was the discovery of electronic voice phenomenon (EVP). EVP has been described as auditory pareidolia.

The allegations of backmasking in popular music have also been described as pareidolia.

Explanations

Carl Sagan

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.

Clarence Irving Lewis

In his 1929 book Mind and the World Order, epistemologist and logician Clarence Irving Lewis, a founder of the philosophical school of conceptual pragmatism, used the question of how to determine whether a perception is a mirage as a touchstone for his philosophical approach to knowledge. Lewis argued that one has no way of knowing whether or not perceptions are "true" in any absolute sense; all one can do is determine whether one's purpose is thwarted by regarding it as true and acting on that basis. According to this approach, two people with two different purposes will often have different views on whether or not to regard a perception as true.

Gallery

See also

References

External links

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