What is pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon that makes us see shapes in clouds

What is pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon that makes us see shapes in clouds
Pareidolia: the psychological phenomenon that allows us to see shapes in clouds. Credits: to whom it is appropriate.
Marina Fernandez Marina Fernandez Argentina meteorite 8 minutes

there pareidolia is a neuropsychiatric phenomenon Which, in the face of accidental and vague stimuli such as spots, clouds, or inanimate objects, leads the person to recognize significant patterns in them. For example, file Humans can see animals, human figures, and faces in the cloudsAs well as features on rocks and faces on inanimate objects.

If one of your outdoor hobbies when you’re on vacation is looking for shapes in the clouds, don’t worry, don’t worry. Humans see familiar shapes where none exist. That is, you know it’s just a cloud, but your brain is able to organize the patterns of light and shadow, and with all the visual information it’s receiving, it describes another image.

Paridolia clouds
When faced with sometimes ambiguous stimuli (such as clouds), some people’s brains have the ability to recognize important patterns in them, such as animals, as in this photo. Credits: to whom it is appropriate.

Being able to perceive these inanimate objects is a sign that our brain connections are working properly, and as Professor Kang Li of the University of Toronto explains: “The brain is uniquely programmed to recognize faces. So even when there is only a simple graphic that looks like a face, it automatically interprets it as a face.

fusiform gyrus

During pareidolia, brain circuits responsible for visual processing are activated in the brain. The said circuits related to numbers are processed differently from the rest of the data, and this structure is called the fusiform gyrus“. In small fractions of a hundredths of a second, these images show us where they are, but also where they are not, And it is activated when we see something that vaguely reminds of it.

Neuroscience has been able to explain how our brain makes this recognition. Responsible for this is the cerebral cortex, called the fusiform gyrus, which allows us to recognize faces and prepare for face recognition, even where these shapes are not present.

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The human brain is designed for organization Information adapted to the environment. It is an organ for survival and adaptationThus seeing shapes, adapting them, and giving them shape is a brain function of adaptive visual organization.

animal cloud
The cloud that looks like a dog in profile is seen to the right. Credits: to whom it is appropriate.

Results of recent research conducted at Harvard University attempt to show that this ability to recognize faces develops over the course of life. according to the data, Between the ages of 30 and 34, humans reach their fullest extent of this recognition mechanismthen we start to go down little by little, and at 65 we have a capacity similar to what we had at 16.

Types of reactions to pareidolia

The famous Rorschach test, in which a person aims to assign meaning to ambiguous stimuli, with a total of 10 images of disjointed, meaningless inkblots. It is a psychological diagnostic method designed to assess personality and detect any psychological abnormalities or problems.

The reaction to pareidolia depends on each person and on their beliefs, sensitivity and emotional state. Cloud Heart. Credits: to whom it is appropriate.

For example, Faced with a sky with well-defined clouds, people can react in different ways Depending on the meaning they give to what they see, based on the recognition of human faces and emotions, as well as the interpretation of animal behavior.

The reaction to pareidolia depends on each person, their beliefs, their sensitivity and the emotional state they are experiencing at that moment. Therefore, it is not surprising that, looking into the sky, you can see a long-necked dinosaur (sauropod), and in the same cloud the person next to you sees a giraffe, or just an elongated cloud.

Animal cloud shapes
Howling Wolf Cloud (left) and Dragon Cloud (right). Credits: to whom it is appropriate.

Beliefs, experts say, make people more likely to attach meaning to nonsensical stimuli, such as the appearance of the face of Jesus or an image of the Virgin Mary in a cup or on a tree stump or a stain on a wall, due to the fact that perceptual cognitive processes and memory are universal in our species. , which is essential and characteristic of our brain.

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When can pareidolia be a problem?

Most people look for shapes in clouds (or other places like trees, rocks, mountains, etc.) like A fun, entertaining and imaginative game for children and adults. But, in some cases and in highly suggestible people, this phenomenon is a symptom of a problem with the perception of the environment.

An example usually given by neuropsychologists is the case of a motorist who crashed into a tree because on the road he “saw a tall man in shiny white and fired a bolt of lightning.” After reconstructing the events, it was determined that what this person saw was the light passing through the trees, which left a certain light effect on the road.

cloud shapes
Cloud Dolphin. Credits: to whom it is appropriate.

This person has been diagnosed with poor environmental awareness, i.e. pareidolia. This type of vulnerable person needs psychological treatment.

According to experts, there may be people who are prone to seeing images all over the place, which means they have more sensitive brains.

In some extreme cases, pareidolia can be more noticeable. In people who are paranoid or prone to schizophrenia, mental status should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Pareidolia: the psychological phenomenon that allows us to see shapes in clouds
The fusiform gyrus allows us to recognize faces and we are predisposed to recognizing faces, even where they are not, like this cloud of human features. Credits: to whom it is appropriate.

Existing Another neurological disorder called “prosopagnosia”, This prevents the subject from recognizing the articulated features of the faces. An example of such a psychological disorder is the case of a man who even confused his wife with a hat. Recent research on dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease, where the patient fails to recognize well-known people, has shown that this is due to atrophy of the aforementioned right fusiform gyrus.

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