Pareidolia: People Hear What They Want to Hear
Have you ever mistakenly thought that your cell phone was vibrating in your pocket, or that you can distinctly see a human face in a strange rock formation? Our brains are wired in such a way that they can play tricks on us, causing us to think that there are meaningful patterns in what is actually random, meaningless information. This is known as pareidolia.
An example of pareidolia in psychoacoustics is thinking that you’re exposing hidden messages when you play records backwards. Some psychologists attribute this in part to the power of suggestion. Here’s an example: If someone tells you that you can totally hear “Paul is dead” when you play the Beatles ‘Revolution 9’ in reverse, you may in fact “hear” it because that’s what you expect to hear. In other words, if you’re looking for patterns, you may very well find them—even if they’re only figments of your imagination!
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