Sunday, July 22, 2012

Once you see it, you can't unsee it.

Pareidolia is a psychological phenomena in which vague or random stimuli perceived as significant or meaningful. The classic example is when one sees shapes or images in the clouds. Some fantastic examples, both astronomical and mundane can be found here. Pareidolia is generally visual, but there are also interesting examples of audio pareidolia. The example I want to visit today comes from the official logo for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games being held in London. Here are the four official versions of the logo plus the official logo for the Paralympics (far left):
Official logos for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games being held in London
Ignoring for now the ugliness of the logo, it does present some excellent examples of pareidolia. First, Iran has claimed that the logo is racist, incorporating the word Zion, a biblical term for Israel. If one looks carefully at the logo one can see this. The shape in the upper left is a Z, just below it is the I, the upper right shape can be seen as an O, and the bottom left shape is a sort of sideways N.

A far more disturbing example of pareidolia in this logo can be found by following the links here. WARNING! Once you go down this rabbit hole, you can never come back and you will always see the logo in the way described there. I saw it, and now I can't unsee it. You have been warned.

As critical thinkers, it is important to be sensitive to the possibility of pareidolia because often charlatans and quacks will make a big deal out of some supposed image they have seen (the face on Mars is an excellent example of this), when really it is just their own perspective or psychological issue being brought to bear on the image. Just because we see something doesn't mean it is really there.

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