French Artist Gilbert Legrand Turns Everyday Objects Into Playful Characters

With a creative eye, the casual observer can espy characters or faces in the everyday objects all around us. French artist Gilbert Legrand takes this a step further by painting and otherwise modifying totally mundane objects to turn them into cute characters and give them new life.


Pareidolic reaction

There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities, with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice or good- will to every thing, that hurts or pleases us. —David Hume

Our brains are made to find faces. In fact, they’re so good at picking out human-like mugs we sometimes see them in a jumble of rocks, a bilious cloud of volcanic ash, or some craters on Moon.

Neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wanted to investigate how the brain decides exactly what is and is not a face. Earlier studies have shown that the fusiform gyrus, located on the brain’s underside, responds to face-like shapes—but how does it sort flesh from rock?

The researchers could conclude that the left side of the brain ranks images on a scale of how face-like they are. The right side makes the categorical distinction between whether or not it’s a human face.

The left side of the fusiform gyrus actually flared up before the right side supporting the hypothesis that the left side does its job first and then passes information on to the right side.

Sources: Ars Technica - Skepdic.com.
Images: Google

Strange Face Found on Iceberg

In this incredible photograph by reddit user strummingmusic, we see what looks to be the profile of a large face on the left side of the iceberg. The psychological phenomenon is known as pareidolia, seeing human faces in inanimate objects.

The photograph was taken in Antarctica in Collins Bay. In the comments section, strummingmusic says he works on a ship called the Barque Europa as a tour guide. He gives lectures, takes people on hikes and guided tours, and captures interesting moments like these. Very cool photograph.



a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse.

The word comes from the Greek words para- (“παρά” = ‘beside’, ‘alongside’, ‘instead’) in this context meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of; and the noun eidōlon (“είδωλον” = ‘image’, ‘form’, ‘shape’) the diminutive of eidos. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia.


Pareidolia: A Bizarre Bug of the Human Mind Emerges in Computers

This rocky hill in Ebihens, France, is, well, just that — a rocky hill in Ebihens, France. But to pretty much any human observer, the assemblage of meaningless angles takes on a familiar appearance, that of a human face in profile. It has a distinct nose, eyes, lips, and chin, capped off with some foliage as hair. From the perspective pictured above, it’s impossible not to see a man in a mountain.

This is an example of a phenomenon known as pareidolia, the human tendency to read significance into random or vague stimuli (both visual and auditory). […]

Humans are not alone in their quest to “see” human faces in the sea of visual cues that surrounds them. For decades, scientists have been training computers to do the same. And, like humans, computers display pareidolia. 

Though there is something basely human about the tendency to see faces in the non-human shapes around us, to anthropomorphize odd pieces of hardware or rocks on a hillside, that computers see humans where there are none should not be all too surprising. Facial-recognition software is a tough technological feat, and in the process, computers are bound to come up with false positives. Does this make the computers more like us? Have they taken on our most human cognitive errors? In a superficial sense, yes, computers do make errors that are similar to pareidolia, and this seems very human. But as you look into these computer false-positives a bit more, you find a different story.

Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Just Face It

It’s Muppets Take The Caribbean, I guess! Diver and photographer Mauricio Handler and his wife Julia found this hilarious sponge on a dive near Curacao. Everyone seems to thing this looks like Cookie Monster, but I don’t agree. 

Yip yip, I’ve got a more extraterrestrial resemblance in mind:

But why do we see a face there at all? It’s just the random growth pattern of three sponge tubes … right?

It’s a phenomenon called pareidolia, where a random pattern suddenly becomes significant. It’s a trick of the brain, a failure of our pattern recognition system, like seeing a face on Mars where there are only random shadows and coincidentally aligned terrain:

There’s a whole subreddit for pareidolia, by the way. When it comes to picking out faces where there are none, computers can make the same mistake, oddly enough.

More than other human features, faces seem to jump out at us particularly well. It makes sense that we’d be neurological experts when it comes to picking out human faces, because we stare at them from infancy onward. But what’s in a face? Many believe that our ability to remember faces is not the result of photographic memory, but rather recognizing mathematical relationships between features (horizontal vs vertical axes, eye shape, mouth curve, etc.). It’s called the face space model.

And what do we read in those faces? Since Darwin, the idea of universal facial emotions has been tossed around.

It’s a strategy even used in airport security training, most famously by Paul Ekman. However, some are beginning to doubt that Ekman’s “universal theory” is worth smiling at.

Some people are even blind to faces, a condition called prosopagnosia. Studying why these individuals can’t pick out a face from a crowd has taught us most of what we know about how healthy brains see them in the first place. Would they see a face in that sponge? My guess is no. EDIT: Saw a reblog from this Tumblr reader who has prosopagnosia, and they say they can see the sponge face, it just doesn’t stick. Fascinating.

Did Superman strike the people around him with prosopagnosia? Maybe that’s how his ridiculous disguise worked:

Of course, Muppets don’t look much like people (or do they?), so why do we see that face at all?

If you’d like to “face up” to some interesting sponges, here’s an article I wrote for Wired earlier this year on sponges with skeletons made of glass.

Researchers find ‘Seeing Jesus in toast’ phenomenon perfectly normal

People who claim to see “Jesus in toast” may no longer be mocked in the future thanks to a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto and partner institutions in China.


Researchers have found that the phenomenon of “face pareidolia”– where onlookers report seeing images of Jesus, Virgin Mary, or Elvis in objects such as toasts, shrouds, and clouds — is normal and based on physical causes.

“Most people think you have to be mentally abnormal to see these types of images, so individuals reporting this phenomenon are often ridiculed”, says lead researcher Prof. Kang Lee of the University of Toronto’s Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study. “But our findings suggest that it’s common for people to see non-existent features because human brains are uniquely wired to recognize faces, so that even when there’s only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain automatically interprets it as a face,” said Lee.

Although this phenomenon has been known for centuries, little is understood about the underlying neural mechanisms that cause it. In the first study of its kind, researchers studied brain scans and behavioural responses to individuals seeing faces and letters in different patterns. They discovered face paredilia isn’t due to a brain anomaly or imagination but is caused by the combined work of the frontal cortex which helps generate expectations and sends signals to the posterior visual cortex to enhance the interpretation stimuli from the outside world.

Researchers also found that people can be led to see different images — such as faces or words or letters — depending on what they expect to see, which in turn activates specific parts of the brain that process such images. Seeing “Jesus in toast” reflects our brain’s normal functioning and the active role that the frontal cortex plays in visual perception. Instead of the phrase “seeing is believing” the results suggest that “believing is seeing.”




a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse.

The word comes from the Greek words para- (“παρά" = ‘beside’, ‘alongside’, ‘instead’) in this context meaning something faulty, wrong, instead of; and the noun eidōlon (“είδωλον" = ‘image’, ‘form’, ‘shape’) the diminutive of eidos. Pareidolia is a type of apophenia.

[Cara Barer]

“So, alien with a god complex, bent on conquering the tiny humans. Great, fantastic- familiar,” Tony said, covering the last word with a cough into his balled fist.

“He has no designs on the Earth or its people. He never did,” Loki replied, comment punctuated with a tired roll of his eyes. “Understand this; whatever Thanos' plan is, it is not one of conquer. You and your comrades made a fool of him when you wiped out the Chitauri’s armada. That is what drives him now. Revenge. Recompense for his slighted reputation."

"Which equals-" Tony began.

“Annihilation, Stark. That will be his aim. Earth and every being on it, will be made an example of and when he is done, when he is finally satisfied that he’s killed every man, woman and child in the most horrific ways imaginable, the planet itself will be no more.”

“For a guy who wasn’t ‘privy’ to his plans, you sure seem certain,” Tony deadpanned.

Loki laughed, suddenly and shrilly. “I am certain,” he said airily. “Because that too, is what I would do.”

-Pareidolia, Chapter Nine x