You know the face of Jesus on toast phenomena, which led to gags like the one to the left? When random shapes occur so as to convince others that they see Jesus or Mary, it’s called pareidolia.
Pareidolia is the attribution of purpose and meaning to random visual noise. Human beings are wired to look for faces, so we easily find them even when they are not there. Religious individuals are looking for God, so they find divine images. The phenomenon is not limited to seeing faces, though. Shapes of anything can take on special meaning depending on the person; you may recall the recent alien shadow on the moon buzz that turned out to be dirt on the camera lens.
In the last month, I’ve seen several examples of pareidolia online, some of which made the news. You can find them below:
1) Chef finds God hiding in an egglplant
If you ignore the obvious from the image below, which is that the “D” really isn’t a “D,” that there are random gaps in the letters, and that the “o” is lowercase, not capitalized (penmanship counts), then maybe this is a message from God. More than likely, however, it is simply what happens when random noise looks slightly like the thing you hope to find. The full story is here.
2) God and an angel walk into the clouds
In the next photo, it is believed (according to the source) to be the images of God and an angel in the clouds, with a trumpet in the angel’s hands. Admittedly, before I knew anything about the story behind it, I thought the cloud might be in the shape of someone giving the finger, with the “angel” cloud giving the finger back.
I’m not sure what that says about me.
3) The new McCicada sandwich anyone?
Lastly, my friend (Mark Traphagen) took this image of a cicada and posted it on Google Plus and Facebook. Immediately people saw the iconic “M” for McDonalds branded on its back. (As Mark said, “talk about taking branding too far.”)
Okay, so maybe no one really believed that to be McDonalds, but try eating that burger now without thinking about the possibilities.