As the picture above states, pareidolia is the perception of an ambiguous and random stimulus as significant. It's the psychological phenomenon that makes us see faces in random places.
One of the best known examples of this engaging human tendency is the "face on Mars", the famous NASA image taken in 1976 by the Viking 1 orbiter (satellite photos from a later NASA mission in 2001 shattered the illusion of the original image).
Another great example of pareidolia is the 'Virgin Mary' toast which relates to perceptions of religious significance - and as it turned out financial significance too - when a toasted cheese sandwich purportedly bearing the image of the Virgin Mary sold on eBay for $28,000!
You can get further details on this story and see a picture of this very expensive lunch item by Clicking Here.
Arguably the most famous application of pareidolia is the Rorschach inkblot test, a popular method of psychological evaluation. During assessment individuals are shown a series of inkblots and are asked to to say the first thing that comes to mind.
Because the stimulus is ambiguous, it is claimed that the patient must impose his or her own structure and in doing so they reveal their thoughts, feelings, and themes, some of which are unconscious and have been projected into the inkblot image, hence the term projective testing.
"Why and how do we tend to see faces in objects that have constituent parts resembling those of a face? Is it because our brains are hard-wired to detect the presence of a face as quickly as possible, or is it a later cognitive construction or interpretation?"
This was the central question investigated by Nouchine Hadjikhani and colleagues as part of their pareidolia-related research investigation. You can read their published findings in full by Clicking Here.
Pareidolia Picture Gallery
See following link to check out some of the very best pareidolia pictures out there.