See Jesus in Toast? You're Not Hallucinating

I've always been intrigued (and mystified) by those people claiming they saw Mary on a refrigerator or in a tree, or Jesus in a piece of toast.

And yet, researchers are now finding that there are rational reasons for people seeing this. It's called “face pareidolia," and it's "normal and based on physical causes," according to newswise.com.

“Most people think you have to be mentally abnormal to see these types of images, so individuals reporting this phenomenon are often ridiculed”, the Web site quotes lead researcher Prof. Kang Lee of the University of Toronto’s Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study. “But our findings suggest that it’s common for people to see non-existent features because human brains are uniquely wired to recognize faces, so that even when there’s only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain automatically interprets it as a face."

Hmm.  Not nearly so romantic as thinking you've been visited by God.

Here's how newswise explains it: "Although this phenomenon has been known for centuries, little is understood about the underlying neural mechanisms that cause it. In the first study of its kind, researchers studied brain scans and behavioural responses to individuals seeing faces and letters in different patterns. They discovered face paredilia isn’t due to a brain anomaly or imagination but is caused by the combined work of the frontal cortex which helps generate expectations and sends signals to the posterior visual cortex to enhance the interpretation stimuli from the outside world."

Researchers also found that people can be led to see different images--such as faces or words or letters--depending on what they expect to see, which in turn activates specific parts of the brain that process such images. Seeing “Jesus in toast” reflects our brain’s normal functioning and the active role that the frontal cortex plays in visual perception. Instead of the phrase “seeing is believing” the results suggest that “believing is seeing.”

So all those people who saw holy ones in their breakfast or up in the sky really weren't hallucinating?  I wonder how this makes them feel, especially if they feel they were visited by a miracle.  What would be interesting would be to follow these folks through life and see if the way they lived changed as a result of this experience.

It does kind of boggle the mind, though, that thousands of people see -- or believe they see -- the exact same thing in a piece of toast.  Not buying it.


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