Pareidolia What does it mean? It is dangerous?

The Pareidolia Is a psychological phenomenon that makes us see a face, a silhouette, a human or animal figure in any Site: in a cloud, in the stains of a toast, in the way the doors and windows of a building are placed, etc.

Many people take the trouble to photograph these images and if you look at them, surely you will also see a face in them.

Rock face

Some people do not see those faces or silhouettes at first glance, but as soon as someone mentions what they should be seeing, then the image appears Immediately in his brain, and it is virtually impossible to stop seeing it.

Why do pareidolias occur?

Scientists say we are born with"pre-connected cables"to detect faces.

A baby barely minutes away from his mother's womb will direct his attention to something that has the general features of a face before To something else,"explains Christopher French of the British Psychological Society.

And that tendency is what helps him to recognize early the face of his mother and his closest relatives.

Pareidolia is surely an evolutionary characteristic, something that has helped the species to survive.

Imagine the following:

A caveman notes that something is moving among the shrubs that are close to him. If he vaguely recognizes the face or silhouette of the tiger in few Seconds, you will be more likely to flee in time and avoid being the cat's lunch.


That is why our Brains Today they are able to recognize patterns easily, and especially, patterns that serve to identify faces or Silhouettes

And not only that. We are also able to define in fractions of a second if a face is happy or sad.

Think about how you interpret the emoticons made with the keyboard. If the line of the mouth is straight, it is a serious face. And it is also very Easy to draw an angry face, with simple stripes and dots.

This impressive capacity of your brain is also the result of eons of natural selection. Who was favored with this ability could Quickly recognize the moods Of aggressive and dangerous people and therefore had the opportunity to depart on time.

This is a totally unconscious reaction. Before processing the information in detail, a certain area of ​​the brain interprets and gives Meaning to what you see, accelerates the assessment of the situation and decision-making , Something that was (or still is) very important for survival.

This ability, while highly specialized in the processing and recognition of faces and Human emotions , Also works to interpret The behavior of animals.

Other theories about pareidolia

There are also some experts who have another theory to explain the phenomenon of pareidolia and it is the following:

Our brains are constantly processing information on totally random lines, shapes, surfaces and colors.

The brain interprets these images by giving them meaning, which it assigns according to stored knowledge in the long term.

But sometimes the information that reaches the brain can be ambiguous, and then the brain gives it the simplest meaning it finds, and it's there When the pareidolia appears.

Face in seat

On the other hand, the researcher in Neuroscience Sophie Scott, University of London, believes that this phenomenon can also be the result of our Own expectations.

For example, people who They say they see the face of Jesus on burnt toast , Actually have that expectation and are interpreting that stain in The toast based on it, instead of simply thinking about spots on the bread or any face.

The pareidolia shows how powerful the perceptual effect can become. If you're expecting to see faces, you'll probably see them, and if you're waiting To hear things, you are likely to hear them, for our perceptual system is preparing for it to be so.

It is even possible that the phenomenon of pareidolia is a combination of our unconscious ability to recognize faces and silhouettes, and culture In which we are immersed.

For example, a Buddhist is likely to recognize Buddha in a coffee stain, while a Christian may say that he has seen the Virgin Mary In the knots of a tree and a child would say he found Mickey Mouse on his plate of food.

What happens at the brain level during the pareidolias

Researchers have studied what happens at the brain level when we recognize a face where there is none.

Apparently there is an area of ​​the brain that is called Facial fusiform area , Which is specialized in detecting faces, and is the area that activates when We look at someone's face.

That area is also activated when the brain attaches different points and thinks that it is seeing a face and this was verified through magnetic resonance .

Face in wood

In addition, it was found that the activity of this region increased in relation directly proportional to the sharpness with which the study participants They perceived the face.

Another region of the brain that is activated with facial pareidolia is the Prefrontal cortex , The most evolved area of ​​our brain. You could say that This area is what"suggests"the facial fusiform area as interpreting the visual cues received.

Study on pareidolia in infants

As we said, a very young baby can already imagine faces that are not really there.

Look at this interesting study:

A group of infants between 8 and 12 months of age were shown this image:

Pareidolia picture

At the same time, they heard a sound.

The babies turned their eyes to the image of the left (which looks vaguely to one face) and not to the one on the right, which would be a Inverted face

From so small, babies"know"that a sound can come from a face, and find the image of the right like a face, that's why they look at it plus.

Famous cases of pareidolia

A good example of this is the well-known" Face of Mars ". On July 25, 1976, the Viking space probe took several photos of the Soil in the Cydonia region.

Face of mars

In one of the rock formations photographed a great similarity with a human face could be observed, especially by the effect of the shadows that are Projected on them, when the rays of sun arrived with a slope of 20 degrees.

Subsequently, many other photos of this formation were taken, with higher resolution and without shadows, and in those other photos is no longer appreciated So clearly the human face.

Do you remember the ancients? Alarm clocks ? For the back of them often recalls a human face, if you have One, look and you will see.

The legend of Monster of Loch Ness Known worldwide. Well, the origin of this legend, it seems, is in a Phenomenon of pareidolia.

Monster ness

In 1934, Colonel Robert Wilson took a picture of the lake, which also had a shadow similar to the neck and head of a plesiosaur. Y At that moment the voice began to spread about the presence of a great underwater monster in the lake.

Some years later, it was known that the photo was trucada, but several photos had already been published in which the monster was supposed to be seen and The legend was already installed.

A well-known application of pareidolia is the Rorschach test . If you have ever attended a psychoanalytic therapy, perhaps the therapist You did this test.

In this test the psychologist shows the patient some ink spots that have bilateral symmetry but that in fact have no form of anything. And asks The patient to tell him what he sees there.

According to his answers, the psychologist gets an idea of ​​the mental state and personality characteristics of the patient.

Mimetolitos: faces on the rocks

Mountain face

In the rocks that suffer the inclemencies of the time, diverse processes of formation and erosion, it is also possible to find patterns recognizable as Silhouettes or faces.

In most cases, the size scale of the rock is larger than the object it represents, for example, a large cliff may resemble a face human.

But in some people the opposite may happen: they find figures or recognizable silhouettes on very small scales, on small stones or bones.

A rather peculiar case was that of a Japanese researcher named Chonosuke Okamura, who in the late 1970s and early 1980s photographed Small inclusions in rocks of the Silurian period, which identified as"small fossils"of humans, gorillas, dogs, dragons, dinosaurs and other Creatures, all a few millimeters in length.

"There have been no major changes in the bodies of these species since the Silurian period, except for their growth in stature, from 3.5 mm to 1700 mm," Said the researcher, jokingly. This work earned him a Nobel Prize Ig (a parody of the true Nobel Prize winners), for his"discovery"in The area of ​​biodiversity.

Pareidolia and religion

The phenomenon of pareidolia can really be very evocative, especially for those who are very religious and believe in miracles.

For these people the identified faces, belonging to important biblical characters, are the evidence of a paranormal phenomenon and the object Where it is located can acquire a very special meaning.

Religious people assume that the phenomenon has been produced by a divine force, and therefore, can spend a lot of money to buy the Object (a toast with the face of Jesus, for example) or make a long pilgrimage to go see it.

There are hundreds of cases around the world, surely you have heard of some of them.


  • Did you know that some people said they saw the Devil silhouette In the smoke that came out of the twin towers in the attack of the September 11, 2001?
  • Last year, a piece of chicken supposedly in the shape of the Former President of the United States, George Washington. One person bought it for $ 8100.
  • Diana Duyser, an American citizen, was having breakfast at her home and had just bitten a toast when she realized it That you could see a Image of the virgin. The lady kept the toast for many years, before selling it on eBay for the modest sum of $ 18500. Yes, this is how you read it.
  • The German Onformative Design Studio created a program called Google Faces , Which studies thousands of images of the Topography of the face of the Earth, taken by satellites and uploaded to Google Maps, looking for"faces".

This is the largest search for pareidolia so far, done in a fully automated way. The program simply looks for patterns Compatible with a face, and found them in many satellite images.

For example, he found a creepy profile in Magadan, a remote region of Russia, a very ugly looking creature in the Alaskan mountains, and a Type with hairs on the nose in Kent, England.

The phenomenon of pareidolia is really very interesting. On the Internet you will easily find many pages where people have uploaded photos, you can Have fun for a while observing the strangest places where people have imagined faces.


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