Top 5 Weirdest Cognitive Biases

I was writing yesterday about Buster’s Cheat sheet of Cognitive Biases that he composed from the list found on the Wikipedia page entitled “List of cognitive biases“. Browse that list and you will find some familiar friends such as “Confirmation Bias” or “Backfire effect“. However, you will also find some truly strange ones, and so I’ve picked … Read more

Finding Jesus in the stars

[Side Note: This is an updated version, the author of the press release contacted me to point out that I had misrepresented him, and he was in fact correct, so I have applied some wording changes] The Friendly Atheist has a posting about a press release revealing that Jesus has been discovered in a star … Read more

Pareidolia: Why does our brain see Jesus on a tortilla? – New Research has some answers

As you can see from the picture here, we naturally tend to see objects that resemble faces everywhere. Be it clouds, tortilla’s, bits of toast or odd-shaped hills on Mars, the pattern recognition engine between your ears does an amazing job. Now, what is interesting is that it is just a resemblance, you can also … Read more

Is that really Jesus, or is it something else? – Pareidolia

WARNING: If you are religious and easily offended, please stop reading now, this is not for you, it might be best if you just hit delete.

Every couple of months we all read about somebody who claims to have found an image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, or the word Allah in some toast, a tree, a door … you name it. So what’s up, is Jesus busy imprinting himself all over the place, or is something else going on here?

What is actually happening is a psychological phenomenon known as Pareidolia. Sitting between your ears is an amazingly powerful and sophisticated pattern recognition engine that allows you to use only minimal details to recognize faces from a distance and in poor visibility. Having this ability gives humans a survival advantage that is obvious. Being able to identify friend from foe with split-second accuracy means that you don’t accidentally identify an enemy as a friend, because doing so could result in deadly consequences.  OK, its not quite that simplistic, there are as assortment of evolutionary pressures responsible for the development of the modern facial recognition capability of modern humans, I’ll not go into details now beacuse I think (hope) you get the idea.

Amazing as this face recognition ability is, it has a side effect, it will lead you to interpret random images or patterns of light and shade as being faces … for example the shape of Italy on a map looks really like a boot, or seeing faces or shapes in clouds, the face on the surface of Mars, or the man on the moon.

Now look left and without hesitation you see a face. Its not a face, all you have there are three circles and a line … and yet quite clearly we all immediately see a face.

So where does this leave us? Well, we are faced with folks seeing images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or the word Allah in all sorts of weird places. Often it rapidly spirals into complete insanity as thousands of believers soon turn up to pay homage to bits of toast or framed tortillas. Its all totally irrational. True believers might challenge this and claim that there is something out there beyond the purely rational … there is indeed, its the irrational.

Still not convinced? OK, to help nail the point home, there is an image of Jesus just after the fold … so if you are a true believer, well here is your opportunity to bow down and worship …

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