Pareidolia is perceiving meaning in something random, such as seeing a face in clouds or hearing speech in a recording played backwards. People have imagined a sculpture on Mars or ghost voices in random noise. And, of course, Jesus has been seen in food and ruder places. Mary has been seen in water stains on the side of a building and in the cheese sandwich shown here.
The familiar Rorschach test is a deliberate attempt to explore these patterns.
A similar word is apophenia, making connections in random or meaningless data (pareidolia is a type of apophenia).
Some people wonder if surprises such as the image of Mary are deliberate instead of random. But why, aside from a desire to support one’s presupposition, would you imagine a supernatural explanation when the natural explanation of pareidolia suffices?
If these images are deliberate, there’s much more reason to imagine that it was Photoshop rather than God behind it.
- See all the definitions in the Galileo Unchained Glossary.