The oven, the wood carvings on your door, and your wallet all have one thing in common: you can see faces on them. They are inanimate objects and obviously have not been designed so that you can see faces on them. There are some famous examples, like Jesus on toast. Once you see the face on the inanimate object, you are in deep trouble – you will probably never be able to unsee it. The whole thing is a little unsettling. You know the cardboard box doesn’t have a face so why does it keep staring at you?
Why do we see faces everywhere?
There are some explanations. Some scientists believe that it may have something to do with the fact that humans needed to be able to identify each other’s face, so in an evolutionary context, it makes a lot of sense for us to be able to just look at a random object and make out a face pretty much instantly. Studies have shown that there is a certain part of your brain that activates when you believe that you have seen a face that is not active when you are just looking at objects.
This phenomena, which is actually called pareidolia, allows you not to just pick up faces from random objects. You can also tell whatever mood the face is in. Your oven may be angry, your cardboard box horrified, and your car may be giving you a big smile. These are things that you will know instantly, as soon as you look at something that even resembles a face.
How does it happen?
Well, your eyes see something, but they don’t process it for you. They just send the information to the brain, and your brain then tells you exactly what you are seeing. Since the brain needs to do this in a split second, it helps itself by predicting what it is more likely to see. That’s why you don’t just see faces, but you can also feel their mood. You react to these faces the same way you would to actual human faces, and while it can be kind of cute when they are a little silly, I’ve found that I’ve had to turn cardboard boxes to face away from me while moving because I couldn’t stand the feeling of being watched.
I know, it’s totally ridiculous. I’ll just blame my brain.