As part of our expanding blog we’ll also be looking at ideas, theories and innovations which could help us in our individual and collective lives in Middlesbrough. Ideas have power to help us reimagine the world. Our first post is a recycled psychology snippet from 4 years ago.
Our brains have to constantly deal with vast quantities of complex information. To make sense of it all we’ve become incredible at finding patterns in that flow so that we can easily recognise a face, hear a voice in a noisy room, quickly assess our environment, etc. Wwe have a remarkable capacity for this pattern finding! The down side is that when presented with random data we sometimes perceive patterns that aren’t really there. The word pareidolia is often used to describe this phenomenon. It comes from Ancient Greek: para = alongside/in-place-of and eidolon = shape/form. It’s the projection of meaning and shape into an otherwise random pattern. We are so adept at finding meaning that we find it hard to turn off that power. One many of us fell for in the days of the X-Files was the face on Mars (pictured). Seeing faces in inanimate objects is a particularly common example of pareidolia. Thinking you hear the phone ringing when you’re in the shower is another. Lots of visual illusions exploit pareidolia and pattern recognition. Coupled with our survival instincts, it could well be one reason why we often find the dark so terrifying. But it can also kick-in when we want confirmation of what we believe, so training our discernment is a valuable antidote to being led astray by our overactive desire to see patterns. What’s your best example? Have you ever found Jesus in your toast?
The Phantom Fact Flinger
TPFF is a tricky customer, flitting around for interesting ideas to share with us here at hope4boro. Who knows what spirited information s/he’ll conjour up next? Maybe you could help TPFF with some ideas for future posts?