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The so-called “Face on Mars”: an example of pareidolia

From Ancient Greek παρα (para, alongside, concurrent) + εἴδωλον (eídōlon, image).



pareidolia (countable and uncountable, plural pareidolias)

  1. The tendency to interpret a vague stimulus as something known to the observer, such as interpreting marks on Mars as canals, seeing shapes in clouds, or hearing hidden messages in music.
    • 1993, Raymond Moody; Paul Perry, Reunions: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones, New York, N.Y.: Random House, →ISBN, page 13:
      Pareidolia underlies several forms of divination.
    • 2006, Steve W. Martin, “Choosing Your Battles”, in Heavy Hitter Selling: How Successful Salespeople Use Language and Intuition to Persuade Customers to Buy, Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 150:
      Pareidolias aren't solely limited to images. When I was a youngster, I remember listening to The Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields" over and over to hear what seemed to be "I buried Paul."
    • 2010, Rick Emmer, “Nessies of the New World”, in Loch Ness Monster: Fact or Fiction? (Creature Scene Investigation), New York, N.Y.: Chelsea House Publishers, Infobase Publishing, →ISBN, page 81:
      Pareidolia is a state of mind where a vague or unclear image is perceived to be something recognizable, regardless of whether it's something you expect to see. The most famous example of pareidolia is the familiar face of the Man in the Moon.

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pareidolia f (plural pareidolias)

  1. pareidolia (tendency to interpret vague stimuli as something familiar)