Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Pareidolia: The big idea

If you've followed my blog at all, you've probably seen the entire series of posts on pareidolia (ie, when things look like other things). Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has a pareidolia series too.

So what's the point of posting these things all the time? Is it to show how stupid people can be?

Not really. Trying to find patterns in things is part of our genetic programming. I'm certainly not going to fault anyone for doing it. However, what I can fault them for, is taking it far too seriously. The reason is, that it demonstrates a gigantic case of confirmation bias. Odd shapes turning into miracles only works when you've already had the image implanted in your mind.

This image (I'm linking to it because it's possibly NSFW depending on how you look at it) illustrates it perfectly.

If you haven't seen the image, don't scroll down anymore till you have unless you want to spoil the surprise.

I bet most of the people reading this blog saw the same thing I saw: A naked couple embracing. However, when the same image is shown to people that wouldn't have already been made aware of such things (ie, children) the image is of 12 dolphins (they're in the dark regions).

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