Pareidolia

As a child, did you ever lay on your back and try to see shapes in the clouds? You might have seen one cloud shaped like a horse, or another cloud shaped like a rabbit. There is a fancy name for seeing patterns, like shapes or faces, in random data like clouds. The fancy name is “pareidolia.” It comes from the fact that the human brain seeks to identify patterns, and it’s the phenomenon behind the Rorschach inkblot test. People can see patterns that form into shapes or faces in almost anything. The man in the moon in one example. Another example is rock formations such as The Old Man of the Mountain in New Hampshire--from one angle it looked like the face of an old man. The famous story about someone finding the face of Jesus in a slice of toast is another. The Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593) took advantage of this tendency for the eye to see shapes. One of his famous puzzle pictures, The Jurist, shows a stern looking judge, but it you look close the face is made up of a frog, fish and other foods, probably a satire on greed.

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