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Friday, July 9, 2010

What is Pareidolia?

Pareidolia is a very interesting phenomena of the brain, rather the brain-to-eye or eye-to-brain connection, whereby what the eye sees, the brain interprets - in the way the brain LIKES to interpret things. Ultimately, the brain likes things it the brain takes unfamiliar things the eyes see and interprets them as something the brain knows about.

ie: the random pattern in the clouds comes to be seen as a human FACE, sometimes a recognizable face like the face of Jesus (based on our favourite, preffered picture of Jesus? Perhaps one that has been on the wall at our parents' or grandparents' home for the past 20-39 years?).

Other examples:
  • the face of Jesus in a pattern on a piece of toast!
  • the "Man on/in the Moon" we think we see in the valleys and shadow that we can't quite see clearly when we look up at the moon
  • animal shapes in the clouds
  • animal or human face shapes in the leaves or trees
Our brains like to make "random" patterns and unfamiliar things have a meaning we can understand, so our brains tell us we are seeing familiar and recognizable things/objects - when really, there might be no full pattern that truly corresponds with what our brain tells us we are seeing.

In my recent research into this phenomena, I've come to wonder if there are times when pareidolia is the explanation for things we associate with "bump in the night" scares and sightings of shadow people, ghosts, etc. I won't venture to say that all instances of perceived ghost sightings and the like are pareidolia experiences and not the viewing of ghosts at all, but I've convinced myself that at least SOME ghost sightings can be explained by the pareidolia quirk of our eye-brain connections.

NASA Photo of the Moon - Image Location (Wikipedia):

This photo shows something that looks amazingly like a human face...but scientists say it's coincidental that the far-away valleys and shadows are actually a human face... it's likely our eyes and brain that manufacture the explanation that we're looking at a face. It's Moon terrain, but it looks like a face emerging from or half-embedded in the terrain of the moon. See the Man in the Moon article at Wikipedia if you'd like to learn more about the valleys and shadows on the Moon. Our eyes have also perceived of other "familiar" objects in pictures of the moon: a woman, a skeleton, a dragon, an Angel, a toad and toadstool, and a few other things.

Other Perceived Shapes on the Moon:

Image Location:

Lack of critical thinking has meant that when some people see images/photos like the one above, they instantly believe they are seeing what the brain tells them they see...consequently, many people have literally FREAKED RIGHT OUT about this photo and have declared a number of false accusations against the government (for hiding the fact that there are people on the moon, people have been on the moon before "we" ever got there, etc. There's quite a long list of accusations) for government secrecy and conspiracy concerning successful (or covert, unannounced but successful) trips to the moon, etc. It is THIS lack of critical thinking I hope to get away from by discussing controversial or out-of-the-box and "weird" topics on this blog...many things we THINK we see require extra examination and discussion - lest we create hysteria, erroneous judgments and statements and all manner of mistakes in the world and when examining our world.

Stories, myth, versions of events, connections:

In case any repeat visitors to my Urban Legends blog are wondering, and for new readers who are wondering, studies into urban legends, mythology, folklore and fairy tales carried me into other topic areas over this last year, so I'll try to explain the connections - and also, what is "up for discussion" at this blog location.

The key topic I've found that binds seemingly unrelated issues of stories, folklore and urban legends - with those of paranormal topics, Fortean, UFO, religion and such is MYTHOLOGY...and also, actually "storytelling."

There's a close relationship between mythology as it pertains to stories and lore and myth-building as it pertains to "eyewitness" accounts and "witnessing" (means both "to witness, see" and "to witness, tell of an experience). In short, all these topics are connected by the fact that we, as humans, need to both listen and be heard in order to interact with another in the world. We mostly deal with each other through language, hearing and being heard and all of this involves varying degrees of PERCEPTION...

We also myth-build ALL THE TIME, every one of order to relate an event, we "tell stories" to get our points across - and all of the storytelling, whether an actual archetype-filled story (like the myth of Perseus versus Medusa) or the story of a real life event that happened yesterday - is subject to perception, memory issues, "presentation." Therefore, while we experience the physical (and more), we generally speak the abstract into existence in our explanations of what we felt, physically, what we felt emotionally, psychologically, etc. The temporal is used to tell of what we try to define as concrete (if we can "identify" and describe, then "emotions" and "mental states" become as concrete as we can make them)...but do you see all the discrepancies and exceptions needed here? We're constantly in a world of conflicting concrete and temporal and in the end, it's usually the abstract, airy, non-touchable things in the world that are most important to us...the non-touchable things - words!

Stories, "versions of events." Myth-building, stories, myths, true accounts...they're all quite interconnected.

What happened as I was studying myth-building, versions of events and true accounts is that I saw that old folklore and folktales I was encountering and studying for the past few years held the same features as new ghost-encounter, BEK encounter and related accounts I've been bumping up against more recently. SOME (but definitely not all) of the present-day Shadow People sightings are interestingly close to the old Springheel Jack accounts in the Victorian era in England. Many modern UFO accounts and "extraterrestrial beings" described mirror a few strange creatures described in the Bible...

It's possible that our human psyche, language, the way we process information and then share information has us all quite connected, including repeat descriptions of events, creatures and phenomena that have been going on for years and years, ages and eons. This is just something to think about and consider, of course...and it's not MY idea - that is, this explanation for a myriad of connected, unexplained things is not MY brand new idea...the ideas have been proposed by people from our modern era, like Charles Fort, Loren Coleman, John Keel, Jason Offutt, David Icke, Alex Jones, and too many other modern era personalities to mention here.

Truthfully, I don't have any concrete answers or explanations for all the things above, but I hope that readers who enjoy my articles at Hub Pages, on my current Urban Legends blog and from a few other sites I write articles on - will feel free to engage in discussion with me (and the general blogging community) on these topics.

What is a Conspiracy?

In the most basic way, a conspiracy is a secret agreement or one that is not transparent to a general public that involves something the conspirators plan to do to create a change in a group of people, in the environment, in society or in the world.

That a low-key way, you have to admit that TONS of conspiracies are in the works all the time, all over the world...and many "conspiracies" have nothing to do with anything harmful.

Popular Culture takes the definition of "conspiracy" further and generally, makes a definition that most people are familiar with and that most people hold to - whereby "conspiracy" means something very definitely bad and harmful.

By contrast, the planning of a surprise birthday party is, technically (on a very low-scale), a conspiracy - and one to which few people will object or find harmful. If you've helped plan a surprise birthday party for someone, you're a conspirator! I'm sure, of course, that you intended no harm whatsoever for the birthday boy or girl or upon any of the guests of the birthday party - but you probably involved yourself in meetings that were kept secret from at least one person, would influence that person's (or several peoples') time, mood, schedule and life - for at least a significant several hours of a particular day. You created a change in environment, mood, possibly a significant impact upon a relationship or several relationships between you, the "uninformed" person(s) and people you conspired to bring to the surprise birthday party event. Congratulations, CONSPIRATOR!


Most dictionary definitions of "conspiracy" do, in fact, mention conspiracy is something covert, secret, harmful, and illegal however, the Oxford dictionary also puts forth an alternative definition more in line with what I'm suggesting about conspiracies and an overlooked definition of "conspiracy" that I tend to remind people about all the time - as I am doing in this post...

The Oxford alternative or secondary explanation for "conspiracy" is: the action of plotting or conspiring.

Now, although I've given the surprise birthday party suggestion above, I don't mean to present that I never think of "conspiracy" in the pop-culture way...because I happen to think that most conspiracy or conspiracy theories worthy of discussion are discussed out of concern for ethics, fairness, fear of harm upon individuals, targeted groups and society, in general.

It just helps me to start with the basics of what conspiracy that I don't automatically tip over into a non-objective manner of thinking when I first hear the word "conspiracy." I tend to automatically jump to the pop-culture way of thinking and start looking for groups, individuals and entities to blame for problems and such if I don't remind myself of what "conspiracy" means at its basic level.

Public reaction to the words "conspiracy" and "conspiracy theory" seems to be derogatory - and when people shy away from conspiracy topics because they are convinced that conspiracies and conspiracy theories are distasteful, the public also veers right away from most of the issues that may be involved within a perceived conspiracy or conspiracy theory.

Hopefully, in future discussions, people will be able to differentiate between pop-culture and common thinking about certain terms versus applicable meaning of words and terms - so that important matters related to conspiracy and conspiracy theory can be discussed here, misunderstandings can be avoided, and unnecessary judgments can be cleared away, leaving topics open for discussion and participants feeling they'll be safe to speak/write freely.

Crossing and Stepping Over Lines

A new theme has emerged out of my current studies into urban legends, folklore, fairy tales and related topics. Over the past year, in particular, I've started to cross the line between folklore-related information and conspiracy-type topics...including paranormal topics, shadow people, black eyed kids, unexplained phenomena, and topics in need of discussion but which aren't so much related to urban legends (or are they?) and folklore.

Things just sort of blurred and meshed together.

Moving away from Hook-Handed Madmen (urban legend, "The Hook"), Baba-Yaga (European folkore, witch, hag or crone?), and classic urban legends (like The Dead Boyfriend, Humans Can Lick Too, and Killer in the Back Seat), what I hope to bring to this new blog is discussion-worthy articles on (not adequately explained by science) unexplained phenomena, conspiracy ideas/topics and things of that nature which don't quite fit on my Urban Legends, Folklore, Myths and Fairy Tales blog.

One thing I think I can say in safety and with accuracy is that the "MYTH" theme actually holds all of these topics together... If we're talking about myth in the sense of being (non-scientific) "explanations" for things in the world around us, then the Urban Legends blog and this new Conspiracies and Weird Stuff blog will remain closely related and complimentary with/to each other.

Feel free to use the comments section - especially since, on this blog, I'm moving slightly outside my usual realms of study and into areas (paranormal topics, UFOs, etc) I am just learning to apply critical thinking toward.