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)