Pareidolia is the tendency to misperceive a meaningful pattern in a meaningless visual stimulus.
For example, this is what happens when you look at the sky and you think the clouds are shaped like a smiling face, an angel or a cat.
There are many other examples, such as a piece of toast that looks like Jesus, a faucet that looks like a face, the shape of a star in the coffee foam and so on.
The man in the moon is another example.
Basically whenever you think that you are seeing a face or an animal on an object or surface that is most definitely not a face or an animal, this is pareidolia in action.
This may also apply to audio stimuli when you imagine there are hidden messages in sounds.
How to avoid pareidolia
- When you see faces, animals or other meaningful shapes in the clouds, coffee foam, toast or any other object, remind yourself that this is just pareidolia in action.
- This is a tendency of your brain, so do not try to assign any higher meaning to it. If you see Jesus on a piece of toast, this is pareidolia, not a message from Jesus or God.
- Sometimes it can be fun to look for shapes and patterns in certain images.
- You can still do this for entertainment if you want. But remind yourself that this is a normal phenomenon and it should not influence life decisions in any way.
- Ask other people what they see; you may be surprised to notice that they do not see the same thing (unless you point it out).