pareidolia (payr.eye.DOH.lee.uh) n. The erroneous or fanciful perception of a pattern or meaning in something that is actually ambiguous or random.
—pareidolic adj.

So, says WordSpy.

“Not so fast”, says Jim Nutter of the NSW Northern Rivers.

 There is no doubt that we perceive patterns, or significance, in ambiguous, random phenomena. In fact, the whole of human knowledge is built on patterns that we have perceived in random phenomena. It is not just a human characteristic either. When animals hunt, they deduce the presence of their next meal in the movement of grass, or rustling in leaves.

In fact, we train our perception to give significance to some patterns and not others. The notion that some patterns are meaningful and others erroneous, or fanciful is an arbitary construct that we place on our perception to make sense of it.

Starting with the Barrow Point rock carvings, which he discovered and reported to the Australian Museum in the sixties, Jim has photographed a wide range of ambiguos and random phenomena which are clearly identifiable as human faces. He observes that once we begin to notice these seemingly coincidental “faces in the clouds” that the world becomes charged with meaning and significance, rather as it must have seemed to stone age people.

 He encourages you to submit your photographs of images of things that are not “really” there to compile a stock of photos of this phenomena.

The kangaroo in the fig tree was shot by Peter King and published in the Echo newspaper. The face in the rock is from Jim’s collection. You will have to email your photos to us for the moment, while we work out how to use our image file upload thingy.

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