Pareidolia, or Why is Jesus on my Toast?

Even as a kid I had a very vivid imagination.  I’ve also always been known as a bit of a smartass.  It should have come as a surprise to no one when, as a young child at breakfast, I asked my Mom, “why is Jesus on my toast?”.   She couldn’t see him, but I could, in all His brown crusty glory.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I just discovered the phenomena of pareidolia. 

Pareidolia is when random images or sounds are perceived as significant.  This covers everything from seeing images of the Virgin Mary in a bathroom mirror at Stuckey’s to listening to Beatles records backwards and hearing “Paul is dead”.  Oh, pareidolia also covers the “man in the moon” and the face on Mars that people claim to see.  Additionally, it also accounts for a simple smiley face.  After all, they are just a circle, a couple dots and a curved line.  Ever wonder why our minds interpret those shapes as a face?  Nope, I didn’t either before today.

Of course the only logical explanation for divine faces on food and satanic messages when playing music backwards must be that the great beyond is attempting to contact us.  Odd that you never hear of divine messages being backwards masked into hard rock, but I digress.  Faces on Mars:  proof of alien visitation.  There has to be something to it.  I read where back in 2004 someone paid $28,000 on Ebay for a piece of toast with the Virgin Mary on it.  The owner said she was, “blessed by the holy toast”.

A skeptical friend of mine tried to tell me that these audio and visual stimuli are all neutral and that they have no intentional meaning.  He says that any meaning lies in the viewer’s perception.  That just takes all the fun right out of it.  He also tried to tell me that Rorschach inkblot tests were developed to use pareidolia to tap into people’s mental states. As for me, I’m going out to buy a blowtorch and a dozen loaves of bread.  You never know, I might get lucky and be blessed by my own holy toast.  You know what they say, “there is a sucker born every minute”.

About Guy McCardle

Guy McCardle is an American science writer and skeptic. He is a certified Infection Prevention Specialist and served proudly as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A devoted father and husband, he offers his unique viewpoints regarding science and the public interest.
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One Response to Pareidolia, or Why is Jesus on my Toast?

  1. Pingback: Did I Just Get a Message from God? | Wild Rye

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