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Mind

That Word You Heard: Pareidolia

When there are faces everywhere.

By Lacy SchleyNovember 11, 2019 12:00 PM
Pareidolia
(Credit: Chad Edwards)

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Ever caught a glimpse of the man in the moon? Then you’ve experienced pareidolia — the tendency to perceive patterns where there are none. Faces are the most common shape people see, likely because mugs matter so much in our social species. But the phenomenon, pronounced “parr-i-DOH-lee-uh,” goes beyond faces. We humans can spot just about any shape in nearly anything: Maybe you see a deformed version of your state in your latte foam, or perhaps those clouds are two dinosaurs duking it out. Pareidolia even extends to auditory stimuli, when people misinterpret arbitrary sounds and noises as something meaningful, like voices or music. 

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