What is the scientific term for the tendency to see familiar patterns in things, that are actually something completely different? One of the most common examples of this bias, is the perception of human faces in clouds, cars and all kinds of other objects.

What I am looking for is a lower level misperception, which people are usually aware of on a higher, cognitive level. I.e., people either are, or can easily become aware of the fact that they are not actually seeing a face (or another familiar pattern).

  • $\begingroup$ Are you talking specifically about the visual system, sensory systems in general, or also higher-level psychological effects like confirmation bias? In other words, can you specify your question? Have you done any research so far? Adding your present findings can greatly help others to know where you are searching for exactly. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Mar 26, 2021 at 9:56

1 Answer 1


Pareidolia is the term you are looking for. It is often used for the specific case you mention of seeing faces in other objects, but it's actually a more general concept that covers other types of patterns and even other (non-visual) modalities.

A search of Google Scholar returns many relevant results.


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