Hello, all! I am back after an unexpectedly long absence with a word that I adore, and had to share with you.
(n.) /pærɨˈdoʊliə/ /parr-i-doh-lee-ə/
Pareidolia describes the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, often attributing something familiar to random characteristics. This includes likening the pattern of craters on the moon to a human face, seeing shapes in the clouds, or hearing messages in music played at the wrong speed.
It was also likely a useful ability for our ancestors, to make sense out of a world which they did not have the science to explain.
To demonstrate, here are a few birds flying over a cloudy sunset, but we can’t help but see them as smiley faces. Isn’t pareidolia cool?
Seeing patterns is a handy ability for us primates, but seeing patterns where none exist may well be the source of artistic expression.
Etymology: 20th century, from Greek; para (‘beside, instead of,’ or in this case, ‘faulty’) + eidolon (‘image, shape,form’).