Art & Culture

The Mind’s Eye – Perspectives from The Artist’s Road

Lakes of Meteoric Origin in the Vladimir oblast, Russia, Wikimedia Commons, Ted.ns

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The Mind’s Eye

Perspectives from The Artist’s Road

Lakes of Meteoric Origin in the Vladimir oblast, Russia, Wikimedia Commons, Ted.ns
Lakes of Meteoric Origin in the Vladimir Oblast, Russia (Wikimedia Commons Ted.ns)

   The amazing human brain has the ability to take in ambiguous visual information (look at random cloud shapes, for example) and to interpret that information into very specific, recognizable objects (horses, or faces, perhaps). The simple lines in an emoji are easily interpreted as happy or frowning human faces. The human imagination seems to have control over the very facts of our visual perception. This has been used as a psychological evaluation tool for decades in the form of the Rorschach test—an interesting way to compare people’s perceptions after looking at random ink blots.

   Pareidolia is the name given to this experience. It has been documented throughout the centuries. Leonardo da Vinci found inspiration for his artwork after seeing images in the natural markings on stone walls. Extreme examples appear every year, from seeing Jesus in a piece of toast to seeing a frog in the froth on a cup of coffee. The appearance of a face where there is none is the most common form of pareidolia. It is considered a normal, healthy human trait, perhaps coming from an ancient skill needed to survive, quickly picking out hidden dangers. For many artists it often provides the gift of inspiration.

   Pareidolia is now being found in computers. With the development and subsequent wide use of facial recognition software, it’s been discovered that computer brains occasionally find faces where there are none. We seem to have passed along our unique trait to the technology we program.


Pareidolia is the name given to this experience. It has been documented throughout the centuries. Leonardo da Vinci found inspiration for his artwork after seeing images in the natural markings on stone walls. Extreme examples appear every year, from seeing Jesus in a piece of toast to seeing a frog in the froth on a cup of coffee. The appearance of a face where there is none is the most common form of pareidolia. It is considered a normal, healthy human trait, perhaps coming from an ancient skill needed to survive, quickly picking out hidden dangers. For many artists it often provides the gift of inspiration.


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