What’s Your Favorite Example of “Pareidolia?” Or, Fun with Faces.

Brick wall with holes that look like a face

How I love thinking about the body, the senses, the mind!

As I continue my research for my next book, I’m constantly spouting off fun facts.

Here’s one of my favorite little quirks of human nature: pareidolia.

Apophenia is the phenomenon that explains why we often interpret a meaningful pattern from random, impersonal, or coincidental information.

Nothing is more important to us than other people, so we’re always on the search for the human face. Because we’re always looking for faces, and trying to make sense of them, our senses of sight and pattern combine to show us faces in very unlikely places.

Pareidolia is a type of apophenia that prompts us to spot a face in an inanimate object—whether that’s the Man on the Moon, a smiling face on a car, or the face of the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich (which, by the way, sold for $28,000).

grilled cheese

In the 1950s, the Bank of Canada pulled the “Devil’s Head” series of banknotes out of circulation, because people claimed that they could see a grinning demon in Elizabeth II’s hair.

canada 1954 fiver devils face

We see these faces because face-like patterns activate the fusiform face area, the part of the brain responsible for processing faces. The brain so eagerly looks for faces that it finds them where they don’t exist.

I love the goofy faces that smile up at me from snow-covered cars or fire hydrants. Most often, I see these concerned faces glancing at me as I move around my apartment.


Do you often notice “faces” in faucets, clouds, the fronts of houses, or elsewhere? It’s fun to find them.



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