Give Now  »

Noon Edition


cloud in the shape of a deer with antlers

Today's word of the Day is pareidolia!

Pareidolia is a term from psychology that refers to the tendency in people to perceive a meaningful pattern in a vague stimulus.

For example, people can't look at the moon without seeing a man's face in it.

Psychologists note that once your brain has assigned a meaningful pattern to something, it holds onto that interpretation. But there's no face on the moon. East Indian people see a rabbit on the moon; Samoans say it's a woman weaving; Chinese people see a monkey pounding rice. Because of the previous assignment of a different meaningful pattern, it's as hard for a Chinese person to see the face at first as it is for Americans to see the monkey.

It happens all the time: Any time you see a person in a wallpaper stain, a ship in the clouds, or a face in space, you're experiencing pareidolia.

Read More:

How to Think About Weird Things (Mayfield Publishing)

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science