The Thursday Thesis - 10/10/2019
When I was a freckly sprog I’d sit and watch the flames and glowing coals of my grandma’s open fire – it’s something I love to do, even now. Shapes change, bright spots flare and subside, and shapes shift to become....
Well, what exactly?
More often than not it’s a face – not the face that my great grandma warned me about, because that was always the devil’s face I had to be careful of – or something that looked enough like a face for my eyes and brain to connect the dots of randomness until they began to resemble the familiar.
We all do it – it’s a universal human trait with its own fancy name: pareidolia. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary it is “...the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern...”
It turns out that we humans are wired to sort for the familiar and especially for other humans – which is no surprise given our evolutionary need to find food and a mate.
But the most important word in that definition is “familiar” because we can manage what becomes familiar to us – it’s something we have control over.
If we have love and security, that’s what we’ll expect to be around us and we’ll seek out love and security.
Likewise, if we are surrounded by mistrust, hate, violence and division – such as our news programmes are crammed full of – then guess what...?
Yep – we’re going to expect to find that everywhere we go.
So when we begin to remove undesirable things from our lives (top tip: start with your television) that will begin to reduce our tendency to find those things in random events and objects.
When we don’t have doom, gloom and depravity forced down our throats every day, then guess what – we see less of it in our everyday environment.
Conversely, if we are surrounded by positivity and optimism, we will recognise those things in apparently random objects and occurrences, instead.
So, looking at ambiguous images such as the ten inkblots of the Rorschach inkblot tests can indicate what a person’s biases are, as the viewer “projects” what they think should be present onto the random shape of the inkblot.
So next time you glimpse a face in a cloud, or notice that a car’s front-end seems to wear a certain expression, relax – you’re not going mad, you’re just seeing things.
And that’s ok by me.
© Neil Cowmeadow 2019
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