Apophenia is not a word you hear too often.
It can be defined as “the human tendency to find meaningful patterns in unrelated things”.
The most common form of Apophenia, which most people can probably relate to, is Pareidolia – the perception of images or sounds in random stimuli. How many times, for example, have you looked up at the Moon and seen a face (or a rabbit in some cultures)? Or seen a face in the shape of the grill and headlamps of a car? Perhaps you have noticed face shapes when gazing up at the clouds? All of these are examples of Pareidolia, and are explained by the fusiform face area – a part of the visual system responsible for facial recognition.
Pattern spotting can be an enjoyable pastime, and some people can even make lucrative careers out of spotting patterns.
Apophenia reminds us to use our natural pattern identification skills with humility and caution when ascribing meaning to a pattern; the meaning we think we are sensing may simply be our brain’s need/habit for seeking certainty and familiarity.
Enjoy these pareidolic images!