Pareidolia – a Strange yet Interesting Phenomenon
Have you ever experienced staring at the clouds and then suddenly, you spot a figure that looks like an animal, a flower or any other familiar figure? This phenomenon is called pareidolia, a psychological occurrence wherein a stimulus, usually a random and elusive one which can either be auditory or visual is distinguished as substantial. It is a very common phenomenon that can occur in various circumstances. The word pareidolia comes from two Greek words – para which means beyond or beside and eidolon which means image or form.
Previously, pareidolia is thought of as a sign of psychosis especially if there is no one to confirm what a person has seen or heard. However, studies were made regarding this happening and today, it is now accepted as a normal tendency for humans. Carl Sagan, an astronomer was one of the first people who recognized pareidolia as a normal phenomenon. In his book The Demon-Haunted World, he said that recognition is a skill that humans learn from the time of infancy.
Pareidolia can occur in the most unusual circumstances but there are common ones for most people. One of the most common pareidolia occurrences is in religious images and themes especially the images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, Allah and other important religious figures. It can also happen during projective tests especially the Rorschach inkblot test where pareidolia is used to understand the mental state of a person. There are also instances when it can happen when a person sees a work of art, fossils, or hear something that triggers recognition.
There are various views regarding pareidolia but there are instances when the images seen can be important. A person’s belief and the circumstances surrounding him will determine if the pareidolia should be deemed as significant.