pareidolia

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noun par·ei·do·lia \ˌper-ˌī-ˈdō-lē-ə, -ˈdōl-yə\

Definition of pareidolia

  1. :  the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern The scientific explanation for some people is pareidolia, or the human ability to see shapes or make pictures out of randomness. Think of the Rorschach inkblot test. — Pamela Ferdinand — compare apophenia

Origin and Etymology of pareidolia

borrowed from German Pareidolie, from Greek par- 1para- + eídōlon “image, reflection” + German -ie 1-ia — more at idol


First Known Use: 1868


Medical Dictionary

pareidolia

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noun par·ei·do·lia \ˌper-ˌī-ˈdōl-ē-ə, -ˈdōl-yə\

Medical Definition of pareidolia

  1. :  the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful, image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern The human brain is optimized to recognize faces, which could also explain why we are so good at picking out meaningful shapes in random patterns. This phenomenon, pareidolia, could be responsible for a host of otherwise unexplained sightings, such as the face of the Virgin Mary on a toasted cheese sandwich.—New Scientist, 24 Dec. 2011—compare apophenia


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