What are some related phenomena of pareidolia

Pareidolia - Pareidolia

Perception of meaningful patterns or images in random or vague stimuli

Pareidolia (/ ˌ p aer i doʊ l i ə /, US as well / ˌ p aer aɪ - /), the tendency for perception is to impose a meaningful interpretation on a nebulous visual stimulus (so that one sees an object, pattern or whatever means where there actually isn't any).

Frequent examples are perceived images of animals, faces or objects in cloud formations or moon pareidolies such as the man in the moon or the moon rabbit. The concept of pareidolia can refer to hidden messages in recorded music that is played in reverse or at a faster or slower speed than normal, and to hearing voices (mostly indistinct) or music in random noises such as those generated by air conditioners or fans will extend.

Pareidolia was once considered a symptom of psychosis, but is now considered a normal human tendency. Scientists have taught computers to use visual cues to "see" faces and other images.


The word derives from the Greek words pará (παρά, "next to, next to, instead of [from]") and the noun eídōlon (εἴδωλον, "image, form, form").

The German word Pareidolia was used in articles by Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum - for example in his work published in 1866 " The sensory dineries ". As Kahlbaums items the following year (1867) in Journal of Mental Science , Volume 13, discussed pareidolia was translated into English as "pareidolia" and as a synonym for the terms "... hallucination change, partially hallucination change, [and] perception of secondary images."


A simple collection of lines can quickly be perceived as a face and even interpreted as an expression of a certain emotion

Pareidolia can cause people to interpret random images or patterns of light and shadow as faces. A 2009 magnetoencephalography study found that objects perceived as faces produce early (165 ms) activation of the fusiform facial area at a time and location similar to that of faces, while other common objects do do not induce such activation. This activation is similar to a slightly faster time (130 ms) that is displayed for images of real faces. The authors suggest that facial perception evoked by face-like objects is a relatively early process and not a late cognitive reinterpretation phenomenon. Similarly, a 2011 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study showed that repeating novel visual shapes that were interpreted as meaningful resulted in a decrease in fMRI responses for real objects. These results show that the interpretation of ambiguous stimuli depends on processes similar to those triggered by known objects.

These studies help explain why people in general identify some lines and a circle as a "face" so quickly and without hesitation. (In autistic people, it was believed that fewer mirror neurons, or mirror neurons that are not working properly, could mean that everything is perceived as an object. It doesn't seem to be mirror neurons now, but there are clearly differences in perception in autistic people without autism -Spectrum state perceive the face quickly and without hesitation.) Cognitive processes are activated by the "face-like" object, at least in people who are not autistic and draw the viewer's attention to both the emotional state and the identity of the subject even before the consciousness begins to process or even receive the information. A "stick figure face", despite its simplicity, can convey mood information and can be drawn to indicate emotions such as happiness or anger. It is believed that this robust and subtle ability is the result of eons of natural selection favoring people who are best able to identify the mental state quickly, such as threatening people, thus giving the individual the opportunity to to flee or attack as a preventive measure. In other words, subcortical - hence subconscious - processing of this information before it is passed on to the rest of the brain for detailed processing speeds up assessment and decision-making when a quick response is required. This ability is highly specialized in processing and recognition more human Emotions, however, also determine the behavior of wild animals.


A more detailed photo, taken in 2001 in various lighting conditions, shows what a natural rock formation is.

A mimetolithic pattern is a pattern created by rocks that, through random processes of formation, weathering, and erosion, can mimic recognizable shapes. A well-known example is the Face on Mars, a rock formation on Mars that resembled a human face in certain satellite photos. Most mimetolites are much larger than the motifs they resemble, such as B. a cliff profile that looks like a human face.

Image jasper have combinations of patterns, such as: B. Banding caused by flow or sedimentation patterns (from water or wind) or dendritic or color variations, resulting in what appears to be miniature scenes on a cut section that is then used for jewelry.

Chert nodules, concretions or pebbles can in certain cases be mistakenly identified by amateur enthusiasts as skeletal remains, egg fossils or other antiquities of organic origin.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Japanese researcher Chonosuke Okamura published a series of reports entitled Original Report of the Okamura Fossil Laboratory in which he described tiny inclusions in polished limestone from the Silurian period (425 mya) as preserved fossil remains of tiny humans, gorillas, dogs, dragons, dinosaurs and other organisms, all of which are only millimeters long, which led him to the claim : "Nothing in the bodies of mankind has changed since the Silurian era ... with the exception of growth in stature from 3.5 mm to 1,700 mm." Okamura's research earned him an Ig Nobel Prize in 1996 (a parody of the Nobel Prizes) for biodiversity.

Some sources describe various mimetolithic features on Pluto, including a heart-shaped region.

Projective tests

The Rorschach inkblot test uses pareidolia to provide insight into a person's mental state. The Rorschach is a projective test that evokes thoughts or feelings in respondents, which are "projected" onto the ambiguous inkblot images.

Literature and art

Renaissance artists and writers have shown a particular interest in pareidolia. In William Shakespeare's play Hamlet for example the figure shows Hamlet in the sky and "demonstrates" his supposed madness in this exchange with Polonius:

Do you see a cloud there that is almost the shape of a camel?
Through the crowd and like a camel indeed.
I think it's a weasel.
It's secured like a weasel.
Or a whale.
Very like a whale.

Graphic artists have often used pareidolia in paintings and drawings: Andrea Mantegna, Leonardo Da Vinci, Giotto, Hans Holbein, Giuseppe Arcimboldo and many others have shown images - often human faces - that appear in objects or clouds due to pareidolia.

In his notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci wrote about pareidolia as a means for painters and wrote:

If you look at walls strewn with different stains or a mixture of different types of stones and you want to make up a scene, you will see in them a resemblance to different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, etc. Trees, plains, wide valleys and different groups of hills. You will also be able to see various fights and characters in quick movements and strange facial expressions, fancy costumes and an infinite number of things that you can then break down into separate and well thought out forms.


Two 13th century buildings in Turkey show the architectural use of shadows from stone carvings at the entrance. Overt images are avoided in Islam, but tessellations and calligraphic images were allowed, so designed "random" silhouettes of carved stone tessellations became a creative escape.

  • Niğde Alaaddin Mosque, Niğde, Turkey (1223) with her "Mukarnas" art, in which the shadows of three-dimensional ornaments with stone masonry around the entrance form a chiaroscuro drawing of the face of a woman with a crown and long hair that become one appear at a certain time. on certain days of the year.
  • The Divriği Great Mosque and Hospital in Sivas, Turkey (1229) show shadows of the three-dimensional ornaments of both entrances of the mosque part to cast a giant shadow of a praying man who changes his posture when the sun moves as if to illustrate want what the purpose of the building is. Another detail is the difference in the impressions of the clothes of the two shadow men, which indicate two different styles, possibly to tell who should enter through which door.


There have been many cases of perceptions of religious images and subjects, especially the faces of religious figures, in common phenomena. Many include images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the word Allah, or other religious phenomena: in September 2007, for example, in Singapore, a callus on a tree resembled a monkey, prompting believers to worship the "monkey god" (either) Sun Wukong or Hanuman) in the monkey tree phenomenon.

The promotion of sightings of religious figures and other surprising images in common objects has created a market for such objects on online auctions like eBay. A famous example was a grilled cheese sandwich with the face of the Virgin Mary.

During the 9/11 attacks, television viewers reportedly saw Satan's face in clouds of smoke that rose from the World Trade Center after it was hit by the plane. Another example of facial recognition pareidolia came about in the fire of Notre Dame Cathedral when some observers claimed to see Jesus in the flames.

In an attempt to confirm the imprint of a crucified man on the Shroud of Turin as Jesus Christ, a large number of objects were described as being visible on the laundry. These objects include a number of plant species native to Israel, a coin with Roman numerals, and several species of insects. In an experimental setting with a picture made of plain linen fabric, participants said that there might be visible words in the fabric and saw 2 religious words together. Those who said the material was of religious significance saw 12 religious words and those who said it had religious significance but also gave suggestions for possible religious words saw 37 religious words. The researchers believe that the shroud is said to have so many different symbols and objects because it was viewed as an imprint of Jesus Christ even before the search for symbols and other imprints in the fabric, and so it was simply pareidolia at work.

Medical training, radiological images

Medical educators sometimes teach medical students and resident physicians (doctors in training) to use pareidolia and patterns to learn to recognize human anatomy in radiological imaging studies.

Examples of this are x-rays (x-rays) of the human spine. Patrick Foye, MD, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Rutgers University, New Jersey Medical School, has published that pareidolia is used to teach medical trainees to assess spinal fractures and back malignancies (cancer). When looking at x-rays of the spine, normal bony anatomical structures resemble an owl's face. (The spinal stalks resemble an owl's eyes, and the spinous process resembles an owl's beak.) However, when cancer erodes the bony stem of the spine, the radiological appearance changes so that the owl's eye is now absent or appears closed, known as a "wink" "Owl sign" is called. Meanwhile, when looking at x-rays of the human spine, which were taken at a partially lateral angle (oblique view), there are parts of the bone that resemble the silhouette of a "Scotty dog". If part of the spine, the When the pars interarticularis is broken, it looks like the dog is now wearing a collar on its neck (the break line looks like a dog's collar on a Scotty dog) This can help doctors diagnose this type of fracture.

In 2021, Foye republished an article in the medical literature on the subject in a medical journal entitled "Baby Yoda: Pareidolia and Patterns in Sacred MRI and CT Scans". Here he presented a novel method for visualizing the sacrum when viewing MRI magnetic resonance imaging and CT scans (computed tomography scans). He noticed that in certain image sections the human sacred anatomy resembles the face of "Baby Yoda" (also called Grogu), a fictional character from the cable TV show The Mandalorian . Sacral openings for nerves to exit (foramina sacralis) resemble Baby Yoda's eyes, while the sacral canal resembles Baby Yoda's mouth. These and other comparisons can help clinicians use the "Baby Yoda Sign" to assess both normal and abnormal anatomical findings in the imaging studies.

Mars channels

Map of Mars "Canals" by Percival Lowell

A notable example of pareidolia was in 1877, when observers using telescopes to view the Martian surface believed they saw faint straight lines, which were then interpreted by some as channels (see Mars Channel). It was believed that the channels may have been created by living things. This caused a stir. Over the next few years, better photographic techniques and more powerful telescopes were developed and applied, resulting in new images in which the faint lines disappeared and the channel theory was debunked as an example of pareidolia.

Computer vision

Given a picture of jellyfish swimming, the DeepDream program can be encouraged to "see" dogs

Pareidolia can occur in computer vision, specifically in image recognition programs in which vague cues can spuriously recognize images or functions. In the case of an artificial neural network, parent features correspond to more recognizable features, and the enhancement of these features brings out what the computer sees. These examples of pareidolia reflect the training set of images that the network "saw" previously.

This can create eye-catching graphics, especially in the DeepDream software, which falsely detects features such as eyes and faces in each image and then transmits them.


In 1971 Konstantins wrote Raudive Breakthrough and described what he thought the Electronic Speech Phenomena (EPP) discovery was. EVP has been described as an auditory pareidolia. Back mask allegations in popular music, in which a listener claims that a message was recorded backwards on a track intended to be played forwards, have also been referred to as auditory pareidolia. In 1995 the psychologist Diana Deutsch invented an algorithm to generate phantom words and phrases using the sounds of two stereo speakers, one to the left of the listener and the other to the right of the listener. Each speaker generates a phrase made up of two words or syllables. The same sequence is played repeatedly over both loudspeakers. However, they are offset in time so that when the first sound (word or syllable) comes from the speaker on the left, the second sound comes from the speaker on the right, and vice versa. After a while of listening, phantom words and phrases suddenly appear, often reflecting what the listener is thinking, and perceptually transform into different words and phrases as the sequence progresses.

Related phenomena

A shadow person (also known as a shadow figure, shadow creature or black mass) is often ascribed to the pareidolia. It is the perception of a shadow spot as a living, humanoid figure, especially as it is interpreted by believers in the paranormal or supernatural as the presence of a spirit or other entity.

Pareidolia is also what some skeptics believe, which leads people to believe that they have seen ghosts.


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