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Pareidolia

Pareidolia is a great word, isn’t it? It describes our tendency to find meaning in noise, and faces in random collections of face-like shapes.

Here are some faces I notice as I go about my day.

The first one is unfortunately the worst photograph. But the illusion only seems to work with the specific angle of the light in my kitchen.

This is the dour fellow who cooks my rice for me. The two lights are his eyes, the horizontal line under “Keep Warm” is his nose, and the lever is his pouting lower lip.

pareidolia in a rice cooker

It’s another odd facet of this illusion that the farther away you are, the better it works. In fact I first noticed it from the couch, about 15 feet away. I glanced over one night and saw a little face glowering back at me.

pareidolia in a rice cooker

See what I mean?

Here’s an easy one: the cheese grater’s somewhat imbecilic (yet good-natured) grin.

pareidolia in a cheese grater

And finally, a more difficult one, but my favorite. This face greets me every time I come home, from a tree trunk at the head of the driveway. To me – a knitter and animal-lover – the green patch of lichen looks like a sheep’s face.

pareidolia in a tree trunk

It’s the bit right in the middle that’s particularly evocative of a sheep’s nostrils and lips, if you ask me.

11 comments to Pareidolia

  • Mich

    I was thinking dragon head with the last one, bu i could see the sheep.

    The eyes on my rice cooker are stacked so it’s not really as facelike as yours, though my perpetually open dresser looks ready to devour me at any moment…

  • Rosa

    I think some of us are more likely to see these faces than others. To me, your rice cooker looks like it is sticking its tongue out at me.
    There is a house down the road from me that looks like it is scowling. When I mentioned it to the guy building it, he said he had never noticed it, and I assume the buyers never saw it either.

  • PICAdrienne

    I can see sheep, but it could also be camel. I agree with the rice cooker sticking out it’s tongue. So, is there a word for people who comment on the faces others see?

  • I swear, every time my dad flashes the lights on the front of his midlife crisis bmw, I feel like the thing is smiling at me! Here’s the result of my quick google- http://bmwview.com/2011/08/19/bmw-5-series-sedan/ Also, I misspelled feel as feal, and none of my spell-check solutions were actually feel. It was very strange…

  • Jennifer

    I totally see faces in random things all the time! I see yours in these pictures. Every car I drive behind has a face in it’s rear headlights and bumper. I have heard that cars that resemble angry faces sell better than happy ones. Also, any piece of flat wood with a decent grain has a good chance of producing a face for me somewhere, or at least a picture of something. There is an amusing door in my church bathroom that has the typical construction of one board sawed lengthwise and split to make the flat face, and doing so makes an interesting Rorschach test. To me, there is a spot on the crease that looks just like a dangly set of bull balls. Everyone I point this out too laughs and says they didn’t see it until I pointed it out. I think I may be weird.

  • def a tongue. And the tree, well it is likely the way my brain goes but I see scrotum

    you prolly didn’t need that suggestion!

  • I see a tongue sticking out on the rice cooker, too. The faces I see all the time are the ones in the electrical outlets. http://www.photoshoptextures.com/architectural-textures/electrical-outlet-texture.jpg

  • Erika

    I think Western civilization would have been a much better place if they had designed plugs so that they were a smiley face, instead of the terrified fellow in the wall we see today!

  • When I was a kid, one house we lived in had a pattern of cracks on the bedroom ceiling that, combined with evening shadows, made a scary monster face.
    Some nights it was really hard to fall asleep…

  • Sara

    Not to mention the Mars Rock, obviously created by the same aliens who did the Easter Island statues. Srsly!

  • Oh a sheep! Totally! Wow, that’s pretty cool.