Pareidolia is an interesting phenomenon that reveals how our human minds are programmed to give randomized visual and audible forms experientially recognizable features like faces, spoken meaning and known objects.
You may have experienced Pareidolia before when you gazed up at the sky and saw a horse galloping across a cloud or when you looked into a shimmering of colors on the water and recognized a person’s face based on a suggestion of rippling waves. Pareidolia is related to Rorschach tests where you divine meaning from ink blots.
Pareidolia also has more significant meaning because in its most effective employment it forms minds into seeing the face of God in a tortilla or the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich or determining that “Paul is Dead” by listening to a Beatles song backwards.
Those interpreted indicia for finding human meaning in random events is fascinating and evidence of semiotics at work. Many instances of Pareidolia are religiously divined not as random images, but as verifiable signs from God we are not alone, and there is a greater presence out there making itself known.
Reports of seeing a weeping statue of Jesus, of seeing the Devil in a plume of smoke from the collapsing World Trade Center, of seeing Mary reflected in an office window, of seeing the face of Jesus on a wet concrete wall are all examples of Pareidolia that move beyond individuals and into group meaning.
That group-think inspired by a shared Pareidolia, no matter what image is being given definition, can be dangerous to our social fabric because instead of leading moral lives where we are bound to each other by promises, we instead become ensconced in majority feelings of unity, and not universal facts, that can be proven beyond the group. Imagination applied to images creates Pareidolia and facts presented to counter illusion smashes it.
People run from smashing. We also unwittingly apply Pareidolia to celebrities and politicians. We see them not as they really are but as we, and their Press Representatives, wish them to be. Pareidolia is broken when a jarring event like a child molestation trial or a jumping-bean couch-gymnastics expression of love for a younger woman on national television leap out at us, breaking the fourth wall of Pareidolia, and forcing us to see those celebrities as they really are beyond our attempt to preserve our careful ordering of their random sounds and images.
There is political and emotional comfort in finding meaning through Pareidolia and that is why the hard reality of what is NOT being seen is important to impress upon the timid and the yearning even if it leads to smashing.
You can read more about Pareidolia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia …and you can read an interesting take on cognitive perception in children and Pareidolia, here: http://www.york.cuny.edu/~seitz/analysis.pdf