Sometimes our eyes love playing tricks on us, and it looks like we see faces and familiar shapes everywhere we look, in clouds, in the bark of trees or even in vegetables. Since most of us have been in these situations where we tend to see faces, animals, and other things in everyday objects, too, there are some of us that don’t know that there’s an actual name for this situation, and it’s called Pareidolia and it’s described as “the tendency for the incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer”.
Professor Kang Lee from the University of Toronto said: “Pareidolia illustrates the interaction between the visual cortex and the frontal cortex of the human brain. It suggests that our brain is highly sensitive and expecting to encounter and process some special classes of objects in our environment because they are biological and socially important to our adaptions to the environment. For example, when you are walking in a dark street in the evening, your brain is on high alert to detect whether any threat will jump out at any moment. In this case, you are more likely to have a face or human pareidolia because it is important for you to err on the side of caution if you mistake a tree as a human being. However, for some people, their frontal cortex’s expectation for certain objects (e.g., faces) becomes so high that they see faces in many situations where no faces exist. Even in this kind of situation, it is normal. There is nothing wrong with these individuals,” he stressed. “Pareidolia is different from paranoia or delusion or abnormal vision of individuals with psychosis. In fact, a recent study shows that those people with pareidolia tend to be more creative. Also, people who are religious may be able to see religious icons in non-face objects as well.”
Professor highlighted pareidolia as a phenomenon that shows how powerfully our imaginations can affect our perception. ” What we see are not things over there in the world but actually the co-creation of what is out there physically and what is in our mind mentally through our expectations and imaginations. Pareidolia is a broader phenomenon as it extends to touch and sound and other sensory channels. For example, you sometimes sense your phone vibrating when it is not, it is a tactile form of pareidolia. When you hear voices in a noisy environment, it is an auditory form of pareidolia,” he added.