The Real Reason You See Faces in Things

The Real Reason You See Faces in Things

If you see faces in things where no one else does, congratulations! You’re neurotic. Welcome to the club. Here, have a t-shirt.

Yep, seeing faces in inanimate objects is a thing. It’s called pareidolia, and recent research from the NNT Communication Science Laboratory in Tokyo suggests people who think their electrical socket looks alarmed, their car looks happy, and their house looks suspicious, are more likely to be neurotic. Excuse me while I add this to my scroll of emotional baggage.

For the study, 166 Japanese undergrads completed questionnaires assessing their personalities and emotional tendencies. They were then asked to look at a pattern of random dots, describe the shapes they saw in the dots and draw in those shapes with a pen.

Some participants were more likely to perceive faces and other inanimate objects in the dots than others, and researchers found the greatest likelihood of experiencing pareidolia was linked to neuroticism and positive moods. And as luck would have it, women were more likely than men to see faces in the dots.

The researchers aren’t yet sure the play-by-play behind why neurotic people are more likely to see faces in things. One possibility is that since they’re more prone to negative thoughts and feelings and are less emotionally stable (gee, thanks), it puts them on higher alert for threats in their environment, so they may see faces where there aren’t any.

That said, pareidolia is also linked to good moods, which past research has linked to enhanced creativity and creative problem-solving. So it’s also possible that positive feelings expand our awareness and attention to detail, allowing us to see every object from multiple angles and possibilities. (Or so I’m telling myself.)

Though after reading this, I’m sure your going to see faces in things no matter how hard you try not to…

1. Onion or Angry Bird?

2. Fountain or Cookie Monster?

3. Tape Measure or Mr. T?

4. Yip Yip Yip Yip Yip Yip or Nope Nope Nope Nope Nope Nope?

5. Piece of Wood or ET?

Don’t blame me for sprinkling your day with a little neuroticism. Blame science.

Fess up: Do you see faces in things?

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Looks like a face image via Shutterstock

Krissy Brady

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?). You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (you know, if you want).