by laurnmacsween

During our lecture on Cognition I was fascinated by the phenomenon of Pareidolia (par-i-DOH-lee-a) – defined by Collins English Dictionary as: ‘the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features‘ – An uncommonly known name for a commonly experienced phenomena. Most scientists consider pareidolia a survival technique as it allows us to read the emotions of an incoming human instantly so we are able to differentiate friend from foe.

Google_Face_TitleA face found on the Earth’s surface using algorithm

While pareidolia is very much rooted in the human condition, Berlin-based design studio Onformative have developed an algorithm to replicate the phenomena using technology and are currently using it to scan Google Earth for face-like characteristics in landscape.


The Shroud of Turin is a famous example of pareidolia. It depicts the face of a beared man, not unlike the stereotypical Jesus, on a cloth. It is not uncommon for the phenomena of pareidolia and religion to be intertwined – a Finnish study recently found that religious people or people with a strong belief in the supernatural were much more likely to see faces in lifeless objects and landscapes. As an experiment I decided to go onto Google and type ‘Jesus face in’ in the search box.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 23.27.16

From here on out things got a little bit strange…

wallJesus in the cracks of a wall

jesus-frying-panJesus on a frying pan

marmiteJesus on the lid of a Marmite tub

kitkatjesus1Jesus on a half-eaten Kit-Kat

73Jesus on a chicken..

And at this point I decided I had learnt enough about pareidolia and the sad lives some chicken farmers keep.


(2013) Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition

Forsyth, M.H. (2012) The Inky Fool: Pareidolia

Zimmermann, K.A. (2012) Pareidolia: Seeing Faces in Unusual Places

Everitt, L (2013) Pareidolia: Why we see faces in hills, the Moon and toasties

Onformative: Google Faces