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Updated on April 13, 2013

What is Pareidolia?

Wikipedia describes it as “a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant.”

Have you ever been laying outside looking up at the clouds on a nice sunny day and thought that a cloud or two resembled an animal or some other familiar formation? Maybe you perceive the image of a face in the design of your curtains, or maybe the constant quack of a duck sounds a lot like laughter, as if it is mocking you even.

Some people see the Virgin Mary on the toast, or hear demonic messages when playing music backwards (called back masking), and we have all heard of the man in the moon or the face on Mars.

This is the psychological phenomenon called Pareidolia. It seems as human beings that our brains are ‘hard-wired’ to recognise familiar images such as faces and human forms, animals and things that make us able to make sense of our surroundings even if they are simply random patterns and stimulus.

I find this phenomenon fascinating and fun to explore, as you may well too if you haven’t already looked in to this subject.

What you can do as I have done is, go through your house with a digital camera and take photos of things around your home that have the “Pareidolia factor”, as I call it, about them, then venture outside and around the yard and even when out and about the town, take snap shots of examples of Pareidolia and gather a collection of images to showcase them on-line, on your website, in a blog or even try to sell the images. Most of all though, it is an interesting and fun hobby to do.

As shown here, are some popular examples of pareidolia that have become big talking points for discussion such as the supposed faces in 9/11, Face on Mars, the Shroud of Turin or the Virgin Mary images.

Whether many of the images that were interpreted as The Virgin Mary on various objects from Stones to bits toast were natural or man-made, didn't stop those claiming to have them from selling them on e-bay and other such sites and nor did it stop those interested in them from buying them for huge sums of money.

The thing to learn from all this is that mankind seems to want to believe that these images or cases of pareidolia are real. Personally I believe that we as human beings always need a reason for why things are as they are and that we feel unique to believe such images in the shape of things we can make sense of can appear to us. Maybe it is our own sense of self importance or the need to believe there is more to something so random than we choose to believe.

Take a look at these images of every day objects and try NOT to see a face in them...

I would encourage those interested in this subject to look more into it, have fun and with your camera on the ready to capture that face in the clouds, trees, wallpaper, pebbles or even your toast. Maybe the creases in you pillow are a bird, your cupboard doors are a pair of eyes or the design in your carpet is an alien landscape. To me the power sockets in New Zealand remind me of the "Scream' mask from that slasher film of the same name.

Well I hope the introduction of this subject has been fun and interesting enough to inspire some to start looking around at there surroundings with a little more interest and fun!


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    • sarcasticool profile image

      sarcasticool 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks, nope you are definitely not the only one.

    • sarcasticool profile image

      sarcasticool 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Thank you, I can spend hours looking at images in my spare time,clouds and patterns in things. I could spend hours discussing topics like this with people.

    • MazioCreate profile image

      MazioCreate 5 years ago from Brisbane Queensland Australia

      Thanks for this Hub, what a great topic. I didn't know the term for this type of occurrence, so that's a tick for learning today. I'm ready with the trusty camera on my iPhone for the next pareidolia image.

    • profile image 5 years ago

      I like your hub. I sometimes think I am the only one who sees things like this.