Most people are not familiar with the term Pareidolia, which is because it is not a word that we use in daily common language. We do understand that humans have a tendency to look for patterns in reality and that skill serves us well when there actually is a pattern to be recognized. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people can not seem to stop fantasizing about their imagined special arrangement of circumstances and that is when all the trouble starts.
What is the phenomenon all about?
This word comes from Greek origins, which dates back to the 18th century i.e. 1828 to be exact. Pareidolia is simply our tendencies to see images or other objects in basically odd places. This phenomenon is also considered the tendency humans have of identifying patterns where there actually aren’t any — like, say, seeing faces in everything from inanimate objects to smudges in photographs.
Pareidolia is a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct. For example, one sees the image of Mother Teresa or Ronald Reagan in a cinnamon bun or a man in the moon.
The biggest question people like to ask if seeing such images simply means they are going crazy. Several people have answered this question, which shows that being able to identify objects or some random images doesn’t make you crazy.
So how does the human brain comes to this determination?
When it comes to what happens in our brains, which results in the Pareidolia phenomenon, it is worthy of mention that two parts of the brain are to be considered i.e. the frontal cortex and the posterior visual cortex. For those who are not familiar with these terms, all you need to know is that the frontal cortex is simply responsible for expectations.
The posterior visual cortex, which is located in the back of the brain, provides the brain’s visual perception. So when these two parts of the brain come together, they are able to provide us with some kind of meaning and explanation. This is why when we are laying on the beach looking at the sky, we are able to bring out the shapes of animals, and make some meaning from what we see. You can simply think of the phenomenon as the human perception, which allows elephants, and sharks to drift lazily overhead in warm afternoon cloud formations and it is also responsible for getting us in a whole heap of trouble when interpreted wrongly. This same phenomenon gives us the abilities to see faces in a landscape or make out faces in the cloud etc. Pareidolia is used in the field of psychology to carry out tests, which are aimed at providing useful insight into the mental status of a patient.