Tree Trunk, Eliis and 21st Street, Boise, Idaho

Tree Trunk, Eliis and 21st Street, Boise, Idaho

If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms.

— Leonardo da Vinci,  from John, R; Don Read, J, eds. “Note-Books Arranged And Rendered Into English”. Empire State Book Co. (1923).

Pareidoila (parr-i-DOH-lee-uh) is “a psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus, usually an image or a sound, by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists.” As a face in knobs and knotholes in a tree trunk. da Vinci wasn’t the first to describe the effect. WC suspects that the human tendency to seize on random facts and see a conspiracy has similar cognitive roots. The effect isn’t limited to humans: WC had a dog that would bark furiously at random, vaguely human- or dog-shaped patterns.

And then there’s that human tendency, that cognitive bias, that tries to see order where none exists. WC wonders if it serves a useful evolutionary purpose or is simply a mis-firing of neurons.

But this sure looks like a face to WC. And, once seen, impossible to “unsee.”




3 thoughts on “Pareidoila

  1. Yet another bird post I see.
    That’s quite a fine photo of an owl expectorating a bolus far, far too large – thus one of its eyes is scrunched up in its attempt to expel it.

    Annddd….in that it’s not yet New Year’s, any resolution by AKRanger not to try to correct WC’s typos is not yet in effect. This blogpost either (1) has misspelled its topic title OR (2) has miswritten its pronunciation. (Sorry!!!!! Great post!)

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