We’ve all imagined seeing faces on trees or elsewhere in nature. But while recognising people in animate objects might seem like a strange quirk to us, a researcher in visual perception says that this phenomenon – known as ‘pareidolia’ – is simply a “random arrangement of stimulus.”
Associate Professor Kevin Brooks of Macquarie University says that pareidolia could be an important survival technique or evolutionary advantage – helping us to “bond” with our caregivers as infants to increase our chances of being nurtured and surviving.
It turns out that all pareidolia needs in order to work is for light to hit the retina in our eye and activate our in-built “face detectors” – and our imaginations do the rest (that explains why I’m seeing Ryan Gosling everywhere…).
But this simple scientific explanation certainly hasn’t stopped people reporting some strange sightings in their everyday lives. In fact, there’s a whole Twitter account for it.
Check it out here.