Do you remember when, as a child, you often spotted strange faces or objects in the clouds? Many of you might have experienced it when wandering the nearest woods as well.
This can often happen later in life too, but it is nothing to be afraid of, as it is a phenomenon known as pareidolia.
It results from our tendency to search for familiar patterns in random streams of information, also known as apophenia. Therefore, we end up seeing familiar shapes everywhere around us, in everyday objects and in nature.
The ability to experience it is more developed in some people and less in others. The good news is that this ability can be a sign of a well-wired brain.
Scroll down to see some pretty fascinating examples of pareidolia:
#1 The reason for the existence of literal fairytales
#2 That Lady Looks like A Muppet
#3 Two Rocks Resembling A Mother Breastfeeding Her Newborn
Professor Kang Lee from the University of Toronto explains it:
“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 adaptations to the environment.”
He added that pareidolia is different from paranoia, delusion, or abnormal vision in the case of psychosis.
He explained that when a person is walking in a dark street, the brain is on high alert to spot any potential threat so it is normal for him to experience face or human pareidolia. He even says that some people’s frontal cortex’s expectation for certain objects is so high “that they see faces in many situations where no faces exist”, and it is normal too.
#4 What Is So Funny Steve?
#6 Let Us Out
Religious people tend to experience pareidolia more often, so you have probably heard someone claiming that they have spotted images of Jesus or the Madonna in inanimate objects. More often, the similarity to known objects, persons, and animals is more subtle.
According to Professor Lee, pareidolia reveals the power of our imagination and its effects on perception.
Pareidolia tells us that “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.”
He added that this phenomenon extends to other sensory channels as well, like when we hear voices in a noisy environment, or sense the phone vibrating when it is not.
#7 A Tree Looking like a Dragon
#8 He Was As Shocked As I Was
#9 Pigeon Portrait On A Leaf
He pointed out that our imaginations can dramatically affect our perceptions.
#10 This Chair Is Going Through A Lot
#11 A Lion Wearing Sunglasses On This Grasshopper’s Belly
#12 The Snow Looks Like A Lizard
Cosmologist Carl Sagan believed pareidolia is a survival mechanism that helps us recognize faces from a distance to investigate if we’re being approached by an ally or an enemy.
Yet, this experience is nothing new, and Leonardo da Vinci described seeing characters in natural markings on stone walls, which he thought could serve as an inspiration for his artworks.
He considered the phenomenon an artistic device:
“If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills.”
Many conspiracy theories are based on the electronic voice phenomenon, or auditory pareidolia, where people hear hidden messages allegedly placed there on purpose by songwriters.
#13 It’s Just Rust, Dog Lovers
#14 A Piece Of Driftwood Looking Like A Dragon’s Head
#15 I See Sid
#16 The Switches Are Scared
#17 This Cupcake Looks Like An Elephant
#18 This Boiled Egg Looks Like A Snail
#19 Done With Life
#21 I’m Flying
#22 “A Hazard, Harry”
#23 My Car and The Snowstorm
#24 There’s A Goddess In This Orange
#25 A Little Cat In The Bubbles
#26 This Shadow Looks Like A Man’s Head.
#27 T. Rex Shaped Cactus
#28 Which Song Was On?
#29 I Found A Dog Stick
#30 She’s Having Twins
#31 Ok, What Just Happened?
#32 A Cat Mid Sneeze on My Dog’s Chest
#33 An Eagle-looking Orchid
#34 This Crocodile Is Looking At Me
#35 Alien-looking Pickle
#36 There is a Face in The Ice In My Glass
#37 This Rock Looks Like A Shark
#38 Pure-Bread At A Restaurant
#39 Stupid Sexy Flanders