Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Mind

Seeing Things in Pictures

NeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticJune 2, 2012 4:22 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

A team of Japanese neurologists propose a new method to detect visual hallucinations - the Pareidolia Test.

Pareidolia means perceiving things that aren't there, in random or unrelated stimuli. Uchiyama et al created a set of 25 photos, each of which contains things that kind of look like faces, animals, or other objects... but not really. As you can see, the flowers and the birds look like faces. I can't work out what the leopard and the trees are meant to be, though...

placeholder

The authors showed the pictures to some patients with dementia. They had one minute to describe what they saw in each image. Compared to healthy controls, patients with Alzheimer's disease did not experience any more pareidolia than controls.

But people with Lewy Body dementia - a disorder in which visual hallucinations and misclassifications are more common than in Alzheimer's - reported seeing numerous faces, people and creatures that weren't there.

They didn't just say that the images "looked like" these things: they actually thought they were pictures of the illusionary objects. This is an interesting test which might help doctors to diagnose visual hallucinations, which are often under-reported by patients. Some degree of pareidolia, especially for faces, is entirely normal, however, as the popularity of Jesus's in snacks shows. When specifically told to expect it, people can even "see" faces in random black and white patterns.

rb2_large_white.png

Uchiyama, M., Nishio, Y., Yokoi, K., Hirayama, K., Imamura, T., Shimomura, T., & Mori, E. (2012). Pareidolias: complex visual illusions in dementia with Lewy bodies Brain DOI: 10.1093/brain/aws126

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In