Do You See Faces in Everyday Objects?


  • Diane Duyser Saw Virgin Mary On Grilled Cheese Sandwich which ad gone viral and had attracted 100,000 hits on the eBay auction website.
Diane Duyser Saw Virgin Mary On Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  • We are primed to see faces in every corner of the visual world
  • Rather than a result of divine intervention, these experiences reflect the powerful influence of our imagination over our perception.
  •  Leonardo da Vinci described seeing characters in natural markings on stone walls, which he believed could help inspire his artworks.
  • In the 1950s, the Bank of Canada had to withdraw a series of banknotes because a grinning devil leapt from the random curls of the Queen’s hair.
  • The Viking I spacecraft, meanwhile, appeared to photograph a carved face in the rocky landscape of Mars.
  • This experience is known as "Pareidolia".

A bin greeting you with a cheery hello

  • Perhaps the creepiest case was reported by urologist Gregory Roberts in Kingston, Canada. Can you imagine his patient’s shock when an ultrasound scan revealed this gawping moon-face trapped inside the man’s testicles?

  • Indeed, once you start seeing these faces peering back at you, they start to appear everywhere. Some of these objects clearly bear a certain similarity to the emoticons we often use to represent feelings – the curved line of a smile and two circles representing the eyes.
  • we tend to think that our eyes faithfully report whatever is in front of us, the retina records an imperfect and confusing image that needs to be tidied up by the brain. And Lee thinks this “top-down processing” by the brain is what leads to pareidolia.
  • One way the brain makes sense of the mess is by making predictions about what we will see, based on our past experience, and then subtly projecting those expectations onto what we see. 
  • One reason could just be that we see so many faces in our day-to-day lives, we’re expecting to see them everywhere. “Starting from childhood, they are the most common stimuli that we encounter in everyday life,”
  • A more speculative view, according to other researchers, is that a similar mechanism could explain human spirituality.
  • The idea is that the brain, being hard-wired to understand people and their motivations, tries to look for human-like intention in everything around us be it a thunderstorm, a plague or a terrifying and abstract concept like death.
  • In a bid to make sense of our fears, we therefore begin to personify them, filling the world with gods and demons.
  • Intriguingly, Tapani Riekki at the University of Helsinki in Finland and colleagues have found that religious people are more likely to see faces in ambiguous photos than atheists.