Pareidolia: why lifeless faces look at us from everywhere and even from space

Why lifeless faces look at us from everywhere and even from space

Lifeless faces look at the person everywhere. If you doubt that, then look at a cloud in the sky. Doesn't it look like a human face? There are a lot of such associative images in the surrounding world, and the scientists call it 'pareidolia'. It is a special kind of visual illusion and today it is found everywhere, not only on the Earth, but and in the space as well. The pareidolia gives facial features to impersonal soulless objects.

Sometimes the simple shape of two eyes and a mouth is enough to represent a face looking at you. Maybe that's why the ghost myth appeared. Man mistakenly mistook any outline for the existence of rudimentary facial features, and the myth of ghosts was born.

The same can happen in the space, where phenomena of a galactic scale can produce strange double effects. A neuroscientist Colin Palmer from the University of New South Wales believes that there is a basic pattern of traits that define a person's face. In certain cases, the human brain reacts to objects of the pareidolia, mistaking them for a person's face.

The scientists believe that it is important to understand not only the vision of facial features, but also its perception - whether there is a smile, or a sad expression. That difference is not just seeing a face, but reading social and emotional information from it that can tell us how deeply pareidolia objects are processed by our brains and visual systems.

Now the scientists are sure that person can see faces where they cannot be. In 2017, a study found that the macaques can see these traits as well. But later that phenomenon was confirmed with humans. The psychologists theorize that facial pareidolia involves the activation of sensory mechanisms designed to register social information from human faces.

An experiment was conducted with the participation of 60 volunteers. During the test, they were asked to see more pareidolia objects on the left side than on the right. Repetitive sightings of faces create a visual illusion called sensory adaptation, meaning that gazes begin to shift to the right.

It is a confirmation of the fact that a kind of habituation process is formed in the brain, when the cells involved in determining the direction of the gaze change their sensitivity.