Do you see an image of Jesus in this potato chip? 

If you do see an image, you are experiencing pareidolia:a psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus (an image or a sound) by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists. (Wikipedia)

But don’t feel bad – this is totally normal. Until recently we did not know why this was happening.  In 2014, scientists from Canada and China conducted a study about this. “Our findings suggest that it’s common for people to see non-existent features because human brains are uniquely wired to recognize faces, so that even when there’s only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain automatically interprets it as a face,” the study’s lead researcher Kang Lee of the University of Toronto’s Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study. (Time) According to Lee, people will often see religious figures, like Jesus or the Virgin Mary, burnt into toast or drawn in the clouds because religious beliefs can strongly influence the world we “want to perceive”. It’s simply a reflection of the tremendous power that our brains have and how it essentially imposes itself on the outside world, rather than the other way around.” (CBC)

Do you remember:

  • A three-year-old frozen chicken nugget bearing a slight resemblance to the first US president George Washington has been sold for £5,000 on eBay?
  • And American Diana Duyser took a bite out of a cheese toastie in 1994 only to find herself face-to-face with what looked to her like the Virgin Mary. She noticed the Madonna’s burnt image on the bread after the first bite and saved the rest of the sandwich for a decade? (more of these on BBC)

Do you think these actions are crazy? Would you spend over $5000 on a chicken nugget? Let us know about your pareidolia experiences.