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The Art of Pareidolia

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by Susan J Bowes (subscribe)
Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
Published June 21st 2014
Eyes watching you
I marvel at today's child, who on a long trip can amuse himself/herself with an iPad or DVD movie to brush away the boring hours of travel that my generation of being a child endured. To our parents annoyance we were probably fighting with our siblings in the back seat of the car or moaning the age old saying, "Are we there yet"? The mere thought of something as futuristic as a TV or an electronic device in a moving vehicle was just too much for the logical mind. However, it's all here today and those sci-fi movies weren't far-fetched at all, only inventions waiting to happen in a playwright's mind.

Trees, imagination, thought, sci-fi, Pareidolia
This tree looks like it could get up and walk away

So what were some of the things my generation did to pass the time away whilst driving from point A to point B? There was "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with the letter T" or we may have had our favourite colouring book to draw in, a book to read perhaps, or the one I enjoyed was looking at the clouds to see what I could visualise. A creative mind can see many things. I'm sure most of you have looked up at the sky to see the man in the moon or the animals and faces in the clouds.

Wikipedia states the subject of pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being perceived as a form of apophenia. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds and man in the moon. The word pareidolia comes from the Greek words "para", in this context meaning something faulty or wrong, and the noun "eidolon" meaning image, form or shape. Apophenia is the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.

Faces, Pareidolia, imagination, thought
Man's face or Big Foot in a stone wall

I have been thinking of this a lot lately and I wanted to broaden my ability of not just seeing things in the sky. I realised images can be seen in everything around us if I allow my creative brain to take over and I started to see shapes, faces, figures and animals everywhere I went. I wondered if everyone was seeing the same things as I, so I began taking photographs and asking others what they thought or what they could see.

Faces, wood, Pareidolia, imagination, thought
I'm watching you

Many a photograph on the internet would like to spook would-be paranormal enthusiasts by believing something was holding space amongst the bushes when really it was just another trick of the eye that people want to see or believe is there. Sitting by the fire at night watching the crackling embers ignite is another fascination to the human eye that allows our imagination to develop.

I wanted to find out why some people can see things in items and some cannot so my research on the internet led me to an article on left handed people. I'm not really sure I agree entirely by this statement below, however it is an interesting theory.

Left-handed people, thought, imagination Pareidolia
What shapes, faces, if anything can you make out of this?

Quote from Left Handers Dayl website:

It is because their brains are organised differently, left-handers see and think differently and can get some very different results from various "brain tests", usually doing very well on tests that involve creative thinking or unraveling complex images and manipulating 3D images. (See image) A non-creative right handed brain sees only a hodgepodge of disconnected shapes, but the left-handed brain can go beyond logic and find the connecting concept that makes sense of the shapes. If you can't "see" beyond the shapes, it's because your right-handed brain is trying to solve the problem and won't let your left-handed brain have a go.

imagination, thought, Pareidolia
Kangaroo or Praying Mantis??

As a child, dyslexia caused Albert Einstein great difficulty in speech and reading. His poor language skills provoked one teacher to tell him, "You will never amount to anything," and he was expelled from high school. Yet, sixteen years later at the age of 26, he won a Nobel Prize. The secret to his scientific prowess was that Einstein believed in allowing the imagination to roam freely to stimulate ingenious thought.

I may never be a genius like Albert Einstein, however I intend to let my imagination take me on a kaleidoscope of travels in the World of visualisations and creative thoughts. Why not join me?
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Why? Learn something whilst passing the time away and develop your imagination
When: Anytime
Where: Any where and every where
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Your Comment
I see images in a lot of things around the house, such at the wood work, and bathroom tiles. I've always enjoyed searching for images in random pattern and inanimate objects.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12075) 1610 days ago
Oh, one of my true pleasures :) Jesus is in the woodwork on the side of the bathroom door moulding, watching over me as I go to the toilet. There are forever faces in the overgrown wandering jew as I look out the window right this moment. The tree out the back has an elephant face and trunk coming out of it. It never ends ... thankfully :)
by Sue Stevenson (score: 2|569) 1598 days ago
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