A new study from the University of Toronto and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing tries to shed some light on the phenomenon of "face pareidolia" – the illusory perception of non-existent faces.
People claiming to see images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or pop-culture icons in food have often been dismissed or become objects of ridicule on social media. But new research published Tuesday in the journal Cortex suggests that it's a normal result of the way the brain processes information.
According to lead researcher Kang Lee, a professor at the Erick Jackman Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto, much of what people perceive is actually determined by biases already working in the brain prior to any external stimulus. In essence, the brain is hard-wired to recognize human faces, and has a predisposition to impose them on whatever the eyes are seeing.
Some images that people have seen in their food recently: