Monday, 31 March 2014

Paranormal Phenomena or Natural Occurence?: Pareidolia

Written for the April 1st, 2012 S.A. Paranormal Meet-up 

 Researched and Written by
Allen Tiller
Eidolon Paranormal

Pareidolia, or sometimes as it is known, "Patternicity","Matrixing" or "Cognitive Illusion", is a psychological phenomenon that involves random stimulation from audio or pictures being perceived as significant.

The object itself is known as a simulacrum. “simulacrum: Latin, “Likeness or similarity”
"Simulacrum" in circled locations

The word Pareidolia comes from the Greek words,
"Para" - meaning “beside”, in this context meaning wrong or faulty,
and "Eidolon", in this context meaning “image”


The first use of the word in modern literature can be attributed to Graham Reed in his 1972 book,  "The Psychology of Anomalous Experience: a cognitive approach" 
  (ISBN 10: 0091132401 / 0-09-113240-1
ISBN 13: 9780091132408
Publisher: Hutchinson
Publication Date: 1972Binding: Hardcover. )

Pareidolia is a type of "Apophenia", a term coined in 1958 by the German neurologist, Dr. Klaus Conrad. Apophenia “is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data”
Dr Klaus Conrad

In recent times the term “Patternicity” was coined by Michael Shermer to describe aspects of Pareidolia, he wrote of patternicity in the December 2008 issue of "Scientific American Magazine"

“Carl Sagan hypothesised that pareidolia is a valuable evolutionary asset,
because it allowed prehistoric humans to spot friend from foe in an instant,
or see an animal standing in a dense thicket of brush.
Humans do in fact have a part of the brain which is dedicated to facial recognition, the Ventral Fusiform Cortex, which is hard wired to light up when a face is spotted
 Carl Sagan

“As soon as the infant can see, it recognizes faces, and we now know that this skill is hardwired in our brains. Those infants who a million years ago were unable to recognize a face smiled back less, were less likely to win the hearts of their parents, and less likely to prosper. These days, nearly every infant is quick to identify a human face, and to respond with a goony grin.
As an inadvertent side effect, the pattern recognition machinery in our brains is so efficient in extracting a face from a clutter of other detail that we sometimes see faces where there are none. We assemble disconnected patches of light and dark and unconsciously see a face. The Man in the Moon is one result”  - Carl Sagan

We as humans are taught from birth to recognise faces, it is one of the earliest forms of visual recognition we learn. 2 dots and line represents our parents. When one considers how much our brains process in order to remember the thousands of faces we see everyday, it is not surprising that as humans we see faces in various inanimate Objects around us where there is no face. A telephone can appear as having two eyes and a nose, a car appears to have human facial qualities and we have all heard about seeing the man in the moon.
Other Pareidolia involves seeing shapes, religious icons or other objects within everyday items, or within the shadows and light in a photo or video.
Examples of this are the face of Jesus in a piece of toast

The “Nun Bun”

The Pope in flames

This image could also be said to be that of a woman or witch in a robe

or how about this row of pots, that in the perspective seems like a row of shocked faces

Paranormal photography is rife with photos by teams and individuals claiming to have caught a ghost, demon or angel.
Many paranormal photos involve mirrors, or reflections in glass, where the viewer is led to believe that smudges make the reflection of a spirit looking back
Mists are often shaped like animals or people, leading to misconceptions of a spirit manifesting.
Sometimes the local flora can also lead to investigators mistaking pareidolia for ghostly images...

To ascertain whether your photo is or is not pareidolia,
we suggest you try and recreate the photo as close to the original as you can. Go back to the location and look at what is in the photo compared to the location. Look for objects that could appear differently from different perspectives in a photo.

Don't use your camera screen to view the photo, instead use your computer  or laptop screen, or print the photo in a high resolution and take it to the location for comparison, but remember, pictures with a small megapixel or file size will have a larger propensity for pixelation when zoomed in, thus shifting our brain into pattern recognition mode.

Rocks, stone, marble, walls, metal, mirrors and glass can all be reflective, anything caught in a reflective surface can easily be dismissed by skeptics as Pareidolia – to quote the Ghost Hunters motto
“If in doubt,throw it out”


George Washington McNugget
Face in the fire


© 2007 - 2014 Allen Tiller

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