By Janet Martin
Are you one of those people who see faces everywhere you look … on cars, clouds, a leaf, a vegetable … or on your toast? If so, then there is a name for what you are experiencing – it is called facial pareidolia. And apparently, it’s not a sign of madness but a well-wired brain!
Even as a child I was always being admonished for staring out the window at the clouds instead of staying in bed and going to sleep (I saw a lot more than faces as it happens – animals, in particular, appeared to me in the clouds). And today I am one of many people who see “expressions” on the front of every car I see – happy … stern … angry (might it even affect my driving mood? Possibly! … so don’t for heaven’s sake try to cut in front of me if your car’s frontage is of the “angry” variety!)
But when I’m swimming backstroke in the Lido there are so many images looking down at me in the summer clouds … and faces in particular. Usually (but by no means always) there is no individual face in particular – just an impersonal image of, say, an old man, a happy child, a “witch”! They don’t last long of course as the clouds merge or distort into different shapes, but the features are definitely there – a hooked chin perhaps, a smiling mouth, curly hair, large ears. Am I the only one?
Facial pareidolia is a condition whereby people – particularly women – assign human characteristics to inanimate objects. Some have even been known to profit from the “skill” – a
And I must have it really bad – I can even see a happy face looking at me from a shower rose!