Thursday, February 14, 2008


Is this a face on Mars? Of course it's just a rock, but it really, really looks like a face! How could this possibly have happened by coincidence?

Well, most people don't know this, but your brain has parts that are specifically for face-recognition. It's not too surprising that we have this ability built-in, since we are social animals it's very helpful if we can easily figure out who we're looking at.

I say "most people don't know this" because things like this
grilled cheese sandwich sell for $28,000 on eBay. Why? Because it really looks like a face. Well, certain people say it specifically looks like the Virgin Mary, even though no one really knows what the Virgin Mary looks like. I suppose they figure God put the face there, and what other woman would God want on a piece of toast?

Anyway, the reason for this post today is that I found an image that demonstrates that this "face-recognition" area of the brain exists, and provides great insight into why we see faces where there are none.

How can one image do that? By making the "face-recognition" part of the brain choke on bad input. You can actually feel your brain sputtering and fizzling and restarting. Ready? Scroll down.

Crazy, right? The doubled eyes and mouth in this image really shouldn't put our brain straight into "does not compute" mode. But it does, because it actively seeks to find eyes, nose and mouth, and it can't figure out which set of eyes and mouth are the "real" ones.