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Why do we see faces where none exist ?

Posted on Saturday, 10 May, 2014 | Comment icon 29 comments

The face on Mars as photographed by NASA's Viking orbiters. Image Credit: NASA
Pareidolia is a phenomenon that can make us see faces and other meaningful shapes in abstract patterns.
The human brain possesses a remarkable ability, one that we might not be consciously aware of but that can nonetheless shape our perceptions on a daily basis. The capacity to see faces and other forms in random patterns may seem to be an unlikely affliction, yet a tendency to see meaningful shapes where none exist is a feature of the brain that affects us all.

The infamous 'Face on Mars' is a popular example, a rock formation photographed over the planet's Cydonia region that was long thought by some to be the carefully constructed visage of a human-like face. Incidents in which religious figures such as Jesus or the Virgin Mary are seen in the dirt of a window, the stains on the walls of an underpass or even the burn marks on a piece of toast are also common examples of this phenomenon.

In a recent study, researchers conducted an experiment in which a number of participants were shown a series of images, some containing obvious faces and other containing random static. The results indicated that people are more likely to see faces where none exist if they are expecting to see something - such as if they are told by someone else that there is a face there.

The researchers also discovered that the same region of the brain responsible for face recognition is activated when someone believes they have seen a face in an abstract pattern, whether or not a face actually exists there.

Source: Live Science | Comments (29)

Tags: Pareidolia

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #20 Posted by paperdyer on 12 May, 2014, 15:41
I used to play a game with the clouds and see what I could think they looked like. Other than for amusement, doing so is no use at all.
Comment icon #21 Posted by calaf on 14 May, 2014, 22:26
Very good, But can anyone explain why there are mouse footprints in my butter? They prefer oleo.
Comment icon #22 Posted by JesseCuster on 15 May, 2014, 11:52
I see faces all the time but I smoke kush for breakfast so it kinda goes with the territory I quit smoking weed, but back in the day, I'd see faces in everything when stoned.
Comment icon #23 Posted by JesseCuster on 15 May, 2014, 11:54
so ? uh i also see faces , but i don't think someone can explain what i see ! ''faces of the dead '' it has nothing to do with pareidolia . or any religion . But it does explain the amount of people who think they've found faces on Mars, ghosts in camera sensor noise, ghosts in blurry reflections in photos, etc. I can be an important factor to take into account depending on the situation that people see faces in.
Comment icon #24 Posted by Ryu on 15 May, 2014, 12:17
I guess it depends on what you are indoctrinated with or what you happen to be absorbed in that affects what images your mind tries to see in meaningless visual gibberish. If one was a Buddhist then they'd see images related to that or if one was enamored with Warcraft they may see images that resemble whatever is in Warcraft. Also I read that the human brain is adapted to recognize faces to the point that one will often think there are "faces" in random patterns as long as part of the patterns are somewhat in proportion to a face be it human or animal.
Comment icon #25 Posted by lightly on 16 May, 2014, 10:59
it's fun to put jelly on his nose
Comment icon #26 Posted by nisi on 19 May, 2014, 8:57
I read article and conclude toast is as trustworthy as a stray dog's appetite.
Comment icon #27 Posted by nisi on 19 May, 2014, 14:34
HAHA WOOF WOOF? How long you want coju?; All day, everyday....
Comment icon #28 Posted by nisi on 19 May, 2014, 14:46
Sorry! CUJO*
Comment icon #29 Posted by TheGreatBeliever on 1 June, 2014, 15:53
think its the same for ghosts.

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