Have you ever seen the Virgin Mary in your grilled cheese? Seeing faces in inanimate objects is a common phenomenon. Now it seems that we're not alone in experiencing it – monkeys do too. Pareidolia is the scientific term for erroneously perceiving faces where none exist. To investigate whether pareidolia was a uniquely human experience, Jessica Taubert at the US National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland and her colleagues trained five rhesus macaques to stare at pairs of photos.
Have you ever seen what looks like a face in a cloud, or even a piece of fruit or toast? Human are notorious for seeing face-like characteristics in inanimate objects - for example the likeness of an old woman in a sliced tomato or Jesus in a potato chip. But now, researchers have discovered that rhesus monkeys, like humans, recognize face-like traits in inanimate objects. To see if rhesus monkeys recognizes faces in inanimate objects, researchers worked with five rhesus monkeys, showing them pairs of pictures on a computer screen while timing how long they looked at them. Pareidolia is the psychological response to seeing faces and other significant and everyday items in random stimulus.
From the cartoonish expression of a USB plug, to the sight of Jesus in a slice of toast, there are hidden faces all around us – but, only some people can see them. The phenomenon, known as pareidolia, is a psychological response that causes some people to see familiar patterns, such as faces, in random objects. In a study of 2,000 people, UK firm Lenstore has uncovered a number of trends among those who see faces in everyday objects, revealing women and religious people are more likely than others to experience the sensation. From the cartoonish expression of a USB plug, to the sight of Jesus in a slice of toast, there are hidden faces all around us – but, only some people can see them. Can you see a face in the pepper, above?
Human beings are champions at spotting patterns, especially faces, in inanimate objects--think of the famous "face on Mars" in images taken by the Viking 1 orbiter in 1976, which is essentially a trick of light and shadow. And people are always spotting what they believe to be the face of Jesus in burnt toast and many other (so many) ordinary foodstuffs. There was even a (now defunct) Twitter account devoted to curating images of the "faces in things" phenomenon. This story originally appeared on Ars Technica, a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, reviews, and more. Ars is owned by WIRED's parent company, Condé Nast.