Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant, a form of apophenia. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages when played in reverse.

In 1971, Konstantins Raudive wrote Breakthrough, detailing what he believed was the discovery of electronic voice phenomenon (EVP). EVP has been described as auditory pareidolia. The word comes from the Greek words para ("beside, alongside, instead") in this context meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of; and the noun "eidolon" ("image, form, shape"). Pareidolia is a type of apophenia, seeing patterns in random data.

I call it Scrying ... Read more ...

In his notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci wrote of pareidolia as a device for painters, writing "if you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms."

There have been many instances of perceptions of religious imagery and themes, especially the faces of religious figures, in ordinary phenomena. Many involve images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the word Allah, or other religious phenomena: in September 2007 in Singapore, for example, a callus on a tree resembled a monkey, leading believers to pay homage to the "Monkey god" (either Sun Wukong or Hanuman) in the monkey tree phenomenon. Publicity surrounding sightings of religious figures and other surprising images in ordinary objects has spawned a market for such items on online auctions like eBay. One famous instance was a grilled cheese sandwich with the Virgin Mary's face.

Carl Sagan hypothesized that as a survival technique, human beings are "hard-wired" from birth to identify the human face. This allows people to use only minimal details to recognize faces from a distance and in poor visibility but can also lead them to interpret random images or patterns of light and shade as being faces. The evolutionary advantages of being able to discern friend from foe with split-second accuracy are numerous; prehistoric (and even modern) humans who accidentally identify an enemy as a friend could face deadly consequences for this mistake. This is only one among many evolutionary pressures responsible for the development of the facial recognition capability of modern humans.

A 2009 magnetoencephalography study found that objects incidentally perceived as faces evoke an early activation in the ventral fusiform cortex, at a time and location similar to that evoked by faces, whereas other common objects do not evoke such activation. This activation is similar to a slightly earlier peak at seen for images of real faces. The authors suggest that face perception evoked by face-like objects is a relatively early process, and not a late cognitive reinterpretation phenomenon.

An fMRI study in 2011 similarly showed that repeated presentation of novel visual shapes that were interpreted as meaningful led to decreased fMRI responses for real objects. These result indicate that interpretation of ambiguous stimuli depends on similar processes as those elicited for known objects.

These studies help to explain why people identify a few circles and a line as a "face" so quickly and without hesitation. Cognitive processes are activated by the "face-like" object, which alert the observer to both the emotional state and identity of the subject - even before the conscious mind begins to process - or even receive - the information. The "stick figure face", despite its simplicity, conveys mood information (in this case, disappointment or mild unhappiness). It would be just as simple to draw a stick figure face that would be perceived (by most people) as hostile and aggressive.

This robust and subtle capability is the result of eons of natural selection favoring people most able to quickly identify the mental state, for example, of threatening people, thus providing the individual an opportunity to flee or attack preemptively. In other words, processing this information subcortically (and therefore subconsciously) - before it is passed on to the rest of the brain for detailed processing - accelerates judgment and decision making when alacrity is paramount. This ability, though highly specialized for the processing and recognition of human emotions, also functions to determine the demeanor of wildlife.

Jesus is Toast

Imagine preparing your breakfast - perhaps some eggs, toast, something else, and looking down to find Jesus staring back at ya'. We've seen the image of Jesus manifest in some very strange places - trees, clouds, cracked glass, other foods, etc. but this one really is comical. Great job or - like most of reality - it was photoshopped. Yup! We've also been photoshopped. He told me that this is a 2D imprint of a 3D event - just food for thought. Has he been reading my blogs or following the physicists? Just another slice of life folks. Does the image above ,from the article, imply that "Jesus is toast?"

Why It's Perfectly Normal to See Jesus in Toast   Live Science - May 8, 2014
The man in the moon. Jesus in toast. The Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich. Faces are everywhere - even when they're not, strictly speaking, supposed to be. Now, new research reveals the brain processes that underlie these facial false alarms, a phenomenon called "face pareidolia." The findings suggest that expectations matter. When people expect to see a face, these expectations may activate a brain region responsible for processing faces. Pareidolia is a well-known phenomenon, responsible for turning a rocky landform on Mars into a face and a water stain on a Chicago underpass into the Virgin Mary.