Seeing Faces: the phenomenon known as pareidolia

A few days ago I posted a photograph of an illusion – a found face I’d seen in a building facade in the process of demolition – on my Instagram feed, which is comprised exclusively of images taken with my mobile phone.  I also took several versions of the found face with a camera – here is one of them:

Facial recognition in everyday objects is one of the most frequent and common forms of a phenomenon called pareidolia. Wikipedia describes pareidolia as a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists.

I’ve referred to pareidolia in a couple of previous posts and thought it was time to dedicate more space to the subject seeing as I’ve amassed quite a collection. I’ve gathered some examples of facial pareidolia I’ve photographed in the last decade. Here’s a selection, taken on a variety of cameras and mobile phones:

Faces in architecture which is still intact:

An emerging face seen in the decorative detail of a building facade:


Faces on pavements and platforms – this coffee spillage seen at East Finchley Station was reminiscent of The Phantom of the Opera:


Some more pavement and kerbside pareidolia. Seeing faces is quite subjective; I personally like the minimalist, abstract profile with cigarette butt composed of discarded sandwich crusts, but know that is not visible to everyone:


More discarded detritus can appear as a friendly face:


A couple of faces that reminded me of Saul Sternberg’s cartoons:




Cast shadows and reflections suggest a face:


I see this squished paper as an elegant wizened face wearing an elaborate head wrap or African hat:


This squashed paper cup was a bit Chaplinesque!


Here are some mask-like faces seen in concrete, cement and clay



This one’s a veritable golem – in Jewish folklore a legendary clay figure brought to life …


A subtle one in a corroded lamppost:


Bolts and wood grain combine to create another facial illusion:


Here are a couple seen after dark:

A face in a billowing recycling bag:


The blank expression of the face in the takeaway packaging


Here’s a face I saw in the bodice of a vintage dress:


And a person in a red kimono seen in some peeling paint:


A profile seen in tap spillage by my old kitchen sink:


And a face in a discarded bathroom sink basin:


The soft blue ball in the pilates studio reveals a tilted face suggestive of an abstract sculpture:


Faces in nature:

In natural formations such as sandstone and rock:

I see the background hills as a sleeping giant’s profile – a gnarled reclining face.


In tree bark:




Long face in a tree seen at night – with the name Juan carved beneath:



In flowers – here are some faces in roses:



And I had to run after this pigeon to try catch the face with defined eyebrows in its tail feathers:ma-3968



3 thoughts on “Seeing Faces: the phenomenon known as pareidolia”

  1. It’s incredible how you manage to spot faces everywhere! I wouldn’t have spotted any of them! Glad you’ve captured them to share.. They’re amazing, Mish! X


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