Pareidolia – What You, Jesus, and Cheese Toast Have in Common

graphic of a microscope
I…D…I…O… Dammit Ingrid! They’re Spelling Something – LOOK!

There! There’s that noise again!

W-w-w-what c-c-c-could it be? Is there a goblin at my window?!

Or is it just a branch of a tree rubbing up against the side of my home…?

Elementary, My Dear Watson

Most folks understand that humans have a tendency to look for patterns in reality and that skill serves us well when there actually is a pattern to be recognized. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people can not seem to stop fantasizing about their imagined special arrangement of circumstances and that is when all the trouble starts.

We begin to hallucinate that people are talking about us when we enter a room. So and so is up to something and we can see some strange allegiances beginning to form.

Or maybe its the way that whats his name smirks whenever we meet. That dude is up to no good and we are convinced of it. And this is probably not the best time for us to realize that our spouses are cheating on us because they bought those new shoes and underwear.

Man, is everybody planning to hoop us?

Alas, these are all thoughts from perfectly deranged individuals who are plagued by the challenge of Pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon where random and ambiguous events take on special meaning for the person experiencing the situation.

Alligator Lizards In The Air

Pareidolia is the human perception which allows elephants, sharks and Santa’s face to drift lazily overhead in warm afternoon cloud formations and it is also responsible for getting us in a whole heap ‘o trouble.

People see Jesus on tortilla chips, The Virgin Mary on cheese toast and monkeys in tree bark and its not just one person witnessing these big events. Thousands of people see the same thing, especially after it has been carefully pointed out to them. Ahem.

There are some perilous downsides to being unaware of the fact that humans are afflicted with this trait. Here are just a few of the more unhumorous situations that Pareidoilia has inflicted upon our reality:

  • People see patterns of inferiority or superiority in various human cultures or races. This is as ridiculous as contemplating the notion that green cars are faster than red cars.
  • Employers notice behaviors of shirking or slacking off and broach the subject with employees before checking actual results. Paredoilia has warped the mind of more than one manager when they misread a staff member’s inactivity for slacking when it was actually the result of someone capably completing work sooner than planned.
  • Companies see trends in the marketplace which are non existent and then act on this fallacy. Misreading the cues of the economy has tanked more than one enterprise and it is important to understand that all of us are prone to recognizing economic patterns that don’t exist.
  • The grass is always greener somewhere else and we can see it from here. “How are folks where you come from?” asks the old timer to a new arrival to Greener Grassville . “Ignorant,” says the traveler, “how are folks here?” “Ignorant here, too” replies the senior.

Get Back To Where You Once Belonged

graphic of nicola copernicus and his star gazing device
Whoa! That group of sparks is a HUGE LOBSTER!

Just recognizing the fact that we humans are both endowed and stricken by incredible methods of garnering meaning from reality is enough to ensure we proceed cautiously when interpreting our existence.

I assure you, that scratching you hear outside the window is not a goblin.

That is our barky friend Mr. Poplar tickling your abode with his skinny, scrawny fingers.

So c’mon now, just go back to sleep.

Thank you, friend.

Barry Williams

PS. Learn more about this fascinating subject from the link below.

5 Responses to “Pareidolia – What You, Jesus, and Cheese Toast Have in Common”

  1. Thanks Barry, you’ve given me a new word “pareidolia”. I was just about to look it up in my dictionary, when you gave the wikipedia link at the end – so thanks for that as well. 🙂 I wondered whether pareidolia had a similar origin as paranioa?…….. Not bothering to wonder what other people are thinking, is a great freedom, and prevents paranioa. 🙂 John

    What? This is a real word?! I was just making this shite up!!

    Your visit honors me, thank you sir.



  2. PS. I liked the Beatles reference. 🙂

    All Good things come from the British Ilse. At least, thats what me grandad told me

    Thanks buddy.



  3. Barry:

    Quite an eclectic series of posts. Very entertaining while carrying a message.

    Thanks Ron. I’m going to take that as a compliment until I look up what eclectic means because you might just have called me something.

    Talk to you soon, pal.



  4. Hi the other Barry, i thought i would stop by and see how you’re doing.

    I’ve often heard of things being seen in objects, ie faces in sheets etc. And have on occassion seen pictures in clowds, although the only voice i’ve heard is my wife’s nagging me about day dreaming ha ha.

    Keep up the good work Barry

    Regards, Barry

    Mr. Wells,

    There is something I like about you beyond your fine moniker, good looks and incredible wit.

    I just can’t think of it right now.

    Thank you, mister.

    The OB


  5. Thanks Mom.


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