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Mike Sutton
Mike Sutton
Dr Mike Sutton is the author of 'Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret'.
Posted in Science / Social Sciences / Sociology

Pareidolia, Bias and Pattern Recognition

Mar. 11, 2012 6:49 am
Categories: Counterknowledge

We humans are pattern recognizing creatures.


All right reserved. Dr Mike Sutton. Dysology.orgUsed only with express written permission

Howling mad? There is a dog in the moon.

Did you know that from the Northern Hemisphere you can see two men and a Scottie dog in the moon?

In the southern hemisphere you can see a woman reading a book and other patterns.

Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon where the watcher or listener perceives an image or sound to be significant.

On holiday last year I made a video (link below) it looks like a demon appears in the window glass.


All rights reserved. Dr Mike Sutton. Dysology.orgUsed only with express written permission

Demon in the Windoe

You can watch the video on YouTube to see if you see a demon in the window.

Pareidolia can be fun. Does anyone remember last summer and the case of Katie Middleton appearing on a Jelly bean?

A toast to Jesus anyone? The most expensive toastie in the world fetched $28,000 on Ebay - thanks to his mother the Virgin Mary in 2004.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has a lot of fun with this concept.


All Rights Reserved. Copyright Dr Mike Sutton. Dysology.orgUsed only with express written permission

I saw His Noodles myself – at a restaurant in Nottingham, England, – he made his divine image known to me in the light fittings after a few glasses of wine and a couple of fine cocktails one evening.

Do you see a dog in the paving stone below? It’s my holiday snap from Jamaica last year. Click on the blue arrow and it will enlarge the picture so that the dog's head pattern becomes clear.


All Rights Reserved. Dr Mike Sutton. Dysology.orgUsed only with express written permission

Dog In A Stone

Pareidolia also causes bias in research – particularly when we see patterns that we are looking for in what is essentially random data. They even have a statistical tool to help find patterns you may or may not be looking for.

Pattern recognition is at the heart of the Gamblers' Fallacy and causes problems in investment decision making and even racism. And pattern recognition bias in cancer research is deadly serious stuff.

In my own field of Criminology we are particularly interested in the impact of bias pattern recognition in eyewitness testimony.

Spin@ge USA?

Moving on to Crystal City Texas USA, they have a statue to celebrate the claim that Popeye’s spinach eating saved the spinach farmers from going bankrupt during the Dust Bowl years. But did Popeye really increase spinach production by 33 per cent in 1936 – or is it a case of pareidolia caused by wishful thinking? See if you can solve the Popeye Statistical Challenge here on Best Thinking? Is it possible?

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