Why is nature full of patterns?

8 May 2023

Dr Jess Taubert from UQ's School of Psychology featured in an IFLScience article discussing pattern recognition and face pareidolia.

“Our brain is constantly trying to make sense of the outside world. One way the brain accomplishes this goal is by detecting and learning patterns, which are essentially statistical regularities in the environment, because these patterns help the brain decide how to react or behave in order to survive,” Dr Taubert said.

But such a powerful tool for finding patterns can also be fooled into seeing things that are not there. This is the visual phenomenon known as pareidolia- where we may see faces in inanimate objects such as houses, rocks, and vegetables.

“The reason we believe the experience of face pareidolia is so common is that our visual system is optimized for detecting faces. This is because knowing when people are around (and whether they are friends or enemies) has been so important for our survival as social primates. But a side effect of this hypersensitivity to faces is that we sometimes see faces where there are none." 

Read the article