Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon in which a person perceives meaningful patterns or shapes in random or ambiguous stimuli. Speaking more simply, it is the illusory sensation of seeing faces or objects in the shapes of clouds, spots on walls, objects in shadows, etc. This illusion is commonly experienced by many people around the world and was the subject of study by scientists, philosophers and psychologists for years. An example of pareidolia are the shapes that give name to the different constellations.
The brain causes pareidolia
Pareidolia is defined as the mind’s tendency to find meaningful patterns in our surroundings. This is because the human brain is programmed to look for patterns and order in everything it sees. In fact, this ability to recognize patterns and shapes proved essential for human survival, as it allowed our ancestors to identify food, dangers and hunting opportunities.
Pareidolia occurs in the human brain when stimuli reaching the visual cortex are not clear enough to produce a clear and distinct image. Instead of simply processing what its eyes perceive, the brain begins to look for patterns and shapes in the data to identify what is most similar to what it is seeing.
Science conducted studies in recent years and found that it is more common than previously thought. In fact, it was shown to be common in people of all ages, cultures and educational backgrounds.
As an example of pareidolia, in 2004 a piece of toast that appeared to have the image of Jesus on it sold on eBay for over $28,000. Although the image on the toast was simply a combination of burns and stains.
It is used in different areas
Pareidolia is also being studied in the field of artificial intelligence. Researchers are trying to develop algorithms that identify patterns and shapes in data, similar to how the human brain processes it. This could have applications in fields such as medicine and robotics. Where robots and artificial intelligence systems need the ability to recognize patterns in order to make more accurate and efficient decisions.
It was also used extensively in literature and art. In surrealism, for example, ambiguous and confusing images are used to create a sense of mystery and bewilderment in the viewer. Salvador Dalí used pareidolia in many of his paintings generating images that had a hidden and deeper meaning.
On many occasions it can be an object of amusement or even controversy in some circumstances. Although it also has important applications in fields such as artificial intelligence and medicine.