Up Your Orb: Pareidolia or seeing faces

                                                                      Up Your Orb
A satellite photo of a mesa in Cydonia, often called the Face on Mars. Later imagery from other angles did not contain the illusion. source: Wikipedia

(payr.eye.DOH.lee.uh) n. The erroneous or fanciful perception of a pattern or meaning in something that is actually ambiguous or random.
pareidolic adj.
The tendency to interpret a vague stimulus as something known to the observer, such as interpreting marks on Mars as canals, seeing shapes in clouds, or hearing hidden messages in music.  

 Why do we have a tendency to see faces in the clouds? Why does the human brain and eye translate a collection of shadows and highlights into something recognizable that we can name, like a face?
According to scientists, this phenomena of human perception is called pareidolia: a type of illusion or mis-perception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear, distinct and to which we are able to put a name.

"Pareidolia provides a psychological explanation for many delusions based upon sense perception. However, it tends to be used by skeptics as a catch-all explanation for everything from UFO sightings to Bigfoot to Elvis to EVPs.

Under clinical circumstances, some psychologists encourage pareidolia as a means to understanding a patient, using a Rorschach Ink Blot test.

 It seems likely that the mind is making associations with shapes, lines and shadows that are connected to current interests.  Most people recognize illusions for what they are, but some people become fixated on the reality of their perception and turn an illusion into a delusion. A little bit of critical thinking, however, should convince most reasonable people that a burnt area on a tortilla that looks like Jesus are accidents and without significance and have been generated from one's own imagination. Why would Jesus want to sit on a piece of toast? This is what the stuff of crazy is made from."*
 Unless, however, you put it on eBay and auction it off to the highest bidder. Then you could, conceivably, make a lot of money.

*The Skeptics Dictionary, http://www.skepdic.com/pareidol.html
*Source: Wikipedia for definitions and facts.

In the Paranormal realm, take the example of faces seen in orbs. First, orbs are not paranormal. However, many paranormal enthusiasts think they are. So, assuming they are for the sake of this discussion, the paranormal enthusiast will blow up the digital image, lighten or darken it, enlarge it out of all proportion and reality, and, wha-la!, a face. Then the real fantasy begins. Because they are seeing faces in orbs, the assumption is that orbs are manifestations of human spirits floating around our heads, and, hopefully, on their way to heaven. (why would they want to hang around a scummy old stream at Sach's bridge for eternity? Let's hope not.) Or, better yet, fairies inside orbs of light peeking out at us. Fairies? Or angels.  Like the man in the moon, the faces in orbs are a sort of paranormal double whammy delusion. The moon is a heavenly body orbiting earth. There is no man, no face. It's a trick of the light and shadow falling on the hills and craters of the moon's surface. First, orbs are not paranormal.(see my blog on orbs).  Second, the faces you are imagining are a trick of the light and shadow, your brain attempting to organize shadows into form and recognizable images.

 Because I am an artist, the right side of my brain loves to do this. When I was a child I used to think that I was crazy. I saw faces in and on everything; wallpaper, floor tile, puddles, lint, blankets, surfaces of walls, patterns of dirt on the floor. I honestly thought I was a bit loony, so I told no one. When I went to graduate school, we were visiting our professor's studio. He was sitting on a stool talking to us about sources of inspiration. And he said this, which I will never forget, "I don't understand how any artist can not be inspired by everything around them. I get bombarded with inspiring images. I have to block them out or they will take all of my time." Then he pointed to the floor at his feet. "See? Look. This pattern of dust and ground-in dirt on the floor..I see a face, and a figure. I could do an entire painting from this one square inch of dirty spot on the floor. I could sit for hours just looking at this beautiful thing." I was mesmerized. Wow. I'm not crazy. All artists see this way..make patterns out of dirt, lint, mud, the play of light and shadow on a wall, the folds and drapes of a curtain.  

Who knows? One day we will find out that the faces we see really are the shadows of people; people patterns, spirit prints, afterlife images on the surface of hard reality. 

Until then, stop confusing your imagination, the pariedolia experience, with actual reality. I 
have been on investigations with groups of inexperienced enthusiasts who see faces and figures in every trick of light and shadow and scream, "Oh! Look!  An apparition! A face! A shadow person! A spirit is manifesting! I can feel it! It's all around me. This place is really haunted!"
Please, if there is the hope or ambition of becoming a good investigator, first learn to discern the  difference between a highly active and creative imagination, and what you hope or want to see,  and what is really there. Learn about the brain and how it works. Be able to tell the difference between the senses playing tricks and what might actually be there. There is a big difference. Learn to sense the real from the delusion. Get really good at it. Then allow the evidence to speak.
P. J.


Unknown said…
Yay,first to comment.
In my opinion spirits are just that spirits.If you are feeling a spirit presence you are no doubt feeling some fear,with just cause.
You see what I have deducted from my dabbling with a srong spiritual presence is that if it would show itself you would likely die as thereis no way to span the gap in time.Thus explaining why ghosts are portrayed as whispy images.Which I feel would take a strong will to detect on either the part of the spirit or the part of the seeker.
I imagine that if you were strong enough and motivated enough you could actually contrive an actual being.However getting anyone to believe this type of incident would surely be insanely difficult.
So in conclusion good luck Seekers and be aware of what you seek. (Mah ha ha ha ha)
Pam Wellington said…
Thank you for your comments. I do not agree that you "would likely die" from seeing a spirit.

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