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Pareidolia (Mobile Psych Lab • Room 05)

Pareidolia (Mobile Psych Lab • Room 05)

       iOS iPhone

Our research theme in the Mobile Psych Lab • Room 05 is ‘pareidolia’. Haven’t you ever seen human faces in blobs on the wall or cloud in the sky? Let us investigate your brain’s response to face-like visual patterns.

We humans have a tendency to interpret vague visual patterns as representing something concrete. This psychological tendency is called pareidolia. Particularly, we often see faces where there is actually no face. Psychologists may explain ghost photographs as good examples of pareidolia. The photograph of the face on Mars taken by Viking 1 is another example.

This App is a tool to analyze the nature of the visual pattern that your brain interprets as faces.

[How to use it]
Let us here call the face-like visual patterns ‘pseudofaces’. The usage of this App is basically identical to ‘Average Face (Mobile Psych Lab • Room 04)’ except that images of pseudofaces are used instead of photographs of real human faces.

Screenshot 1) Tap the ‘Generate pseudoface’ button to open the pseudoface generator view. In this view, a left-right symmetric pattern is displayed. This pattern consists of randomly generated ellipses. If you see a face in the pattern, tap the ‘I see a face button’. If not, tap the ‘Regenerate’ button.

Screenshot 2) Adjust the positions of markers representing a facial structure. They correspond to the facial contour, eyes, a nose, and a mouth. When finished, ‘Register the first pseudoface.’

Screenshot 3) Repeat the procedure noted above. When the second and subsequent pseudofaces are registered, an average face of the registered pseudofaces is generated. Screenshot 3 shows an example of the average face, which was generated from pseudofaces chosen by me. It’s eerie, isn’t it? After averaging many pseudofaces, the generated average face tends to be blurred except for the pseudofaces’ common visual features.

Some psychologists believe that, in the human brain, there are neural mechanisms specialized for facial analyses. Pareidolia is a visual illusion induced by such mechanisms. As shown in Screenshot 3, the face mechanism in my own brain seems to rely heavily on the eyes and the mouth in distinguishing between faces and non-faces. However, it may not utilize the information about facial contour. Of course, different interpretations are also possible.

And now, use your brain as a filter to choose pseudofaces, and average them using this App. What kind of image will you see?

Note) Strictly speaking, pareidolia implies a phenomenon in which tangible objects are perceived from abstract visual patterns. So, pareidolia is not limited to the perception of faces.

What's new

* Improved image quality
* Faster processing
* Same UI as Average Face (Mobile Psych Lab • Room 04) version 2.0.0


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Last changed:
Oct 27, 2012
p < .05
1.5 MB

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