Tag Archives: Bad Science

Tuesday Snippet and My Son’s Sight

Horse Pareidolia

Horse Pareidolia (Photo credit: CarbonNYC)

I like studying how we learn things.  Though often it seems that we don’t really understand the actual process involved until we find someone who doesn’t seem to do things the way we do.  Then the process seems obvious because it is involved in every step of how we try to make the other person conform to our expectations.


I was just doing my usual “spending too much time” browsing webpages, many of them at the Guardian UK’s Bad Science column when I detoured to read this piece about passion and what makes Bad Science’s Ben Goldacre the “best science writer” (which I have to say is not the case in my opinion–Goldacre writes a bit like Chuck Wendig, attitude and a little common sense  but with a focus on science


In Tess Shellard’s post on what makes a wonderful science writer, she mentions a few issues human beings have with our own thinking processes: aprophenia, pareidolia, and cognitive bias.


Pareidolia: the sensing of meaning in random objects or occurrence.  Things like seeing animals in clouds, believing that the wind is actually whispering your name, or that image of the Virgin Mary in your toast.



Pareidolia (Photo credit: peru, lili eta marije)

I wonder, given how little my son used to “see things” in clouds (and how much time I spent sharing my impressions of these things to inspire him), if the classic two circles and a line within a circle image (that supposedly so inspires children to recognize a face) mean less than we think, but that we as parents and adults urge our children to see it until they do….  I know that for the longest time, my son did not see faces or animals in clouds.  He saw shapes, and he could count them and wanted to know and understand how they could divide and move and reshape themselves and loved seeing weather maps that directed the restructuring.  He did not see static images.  The images moved, and he saw movement and patterns…  I understand it now in hindsight as I watch his play.  I wanted for him to savor and enjoy pictures and images as I did, but movement, motion is his strength.

It’s taken me seeing something that I thought was there, but wasn’t, finding meaning in the wrong places to see this.  I wonder how much this happens.  Is it good?  Can we stop it, and would we even want to.

I think about these things.

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