It turned out to be an evolutionary necessity. The human brain seems to be programmed. We see faces on different objects like trees, clouds or flowers. The reason wasn’t entirely clear. Why do we see faces everywhere?
We process visual signals that we interpret as representations of human faces. Neuroscientists from the University of Sydney explain how this happens. Recognizing real human faces requires the same process as illusory ones. And that happens in a few hundred milliseconds.
“You have to see it from an evolutionary perspective. Never losing a face far outweighs the mistakes where inanimate objects look like faces, ”said Professor David Alais. He is the first author of the study by the Faculty of Psychology. This defect is known as “pareidolia”. It comes from the Greek eidolon “figure” or “image” and the prefix for “next to”. It is a psychological phenomenon in which a vague and random stimulus, usually an image, is mistakenly perceived as a recognizable form. It’s a common fact. We accept it as “normal”.
We don’t just imagine faces. We analyze them and give them emotional attributes. These results were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. What is behind the instinctive expression analysis of inanimate objects? As a deeply social being, simply recognizing a face is not enough.
“We have to read the identity of the face and give it its expression. Are you friends or enemies? Are you happy or sad, angry, hurt? ”Said Professor Alaïs.
On the defensive
«We present sequences of faces. We had participants rate the expression on each face on a scale from angry to happy. ”And the preconceived notion persisted when judging human faces by analyzing lifeless imaginary faces.
A previous study was done by judging face by face. There’s a bias. The rating of the current face is influenced by the previous rating.
“When objects convincingly resemble a face, it is more than an interpretation. They really power your brain’s facial recognition network. For the brain, whether false or real, all faces are processed in the same way, ”explains Alais. Why do we see faces everywhere? It’s almost always up to our brain, on the defensive, so to speak.
The study was carried out in collaboration with scientists from the US Brain and Cognition Laboratory.