Wordy Wednesday: Pareidolia

Have you ever looked into the clouds and tried to find shapes? Or maybe you noticed a pattern in your breakfast toast? If so, you’re not alone! Everyone sees shapes in random things, and I have just the word to describe it!

That word is:


Pareidolia (par·ei·do·lia) is described asA psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant.” (Matt Groeber) Dictionary.com backs this up by defining it as “the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist, as in considering the moon to have human features.”

Like that last definition says, Pareidolia is often used to explain common sightings; such as the man in the moon, Jesus on a tortilla, buildings on Mars, or even some UFO and Bigfoot sightings.

In fact, Pareidolia is sometimes used by medical professional to better understand their patients. Remember the Rorschach Ink Blot Test? That’s used to encourage Pareidolia and get a deeper understanding of the person they’re working with. To learn more, you can visit the Skeptic’s Dictionary.

What shapes do you see?


Pareidolia is a noun and can be used as such when writing. Some examples may include:

“Her pareidolia knows no bounds. Just last night, she told me that her alphabet soup was sending her messages. I really don’t know what to do.”

“Mr. Johnson’s pareidolia has receded some, but he still sees faces in the ceiling of his room. At least they’ve stopped screaming at him.”

“My hallucinations are getting worse. The doctor says it’s just pareidolia, but I’m not so sure.”

So, next time you see a dinosaur in the clouds or a face in the trees, remember that you’re not going crazy. It’s simply a mild case of Pareidolia. 

(The photo is original. I love taking pictures of clouds!)

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