Researchers find 'seeing Jesus in toast' phenomenon perfectly normal

May 6, 2014
Researchers find 'seeing Jesus in toast' phenomenon perfectly normal

People who claim to see "Jesus in toast" may no longer be mocked in the future thanks to a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto and partner institutions in China.

Researchers have found that the of "face pareidolia"—where onlookers report seeing images of Jesus, Virgin Mary, or Elvis in objects such as toasts, shrouds, and clouds—is normal and based on physical causes.

"Most people think you have to be mentally abnormal to see these types of images, so individuals reporting this phenomenon are often ridiculed", says 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 are uniquely wired to recognize faces, so that even when there's only a slight suggestion of facial features the automatically interprets it as a face," said Lee.

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 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 plays in visual perception. Instead of the phrase "seeing is believing" the results suggest that "believing is seeing."

The findings were published in the journal Cortex.

Explore further: How the brain pays attention (w/ video)

More information: Paper: www.sciencedirect.com/science/ … ii/S0010945214000288

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5 comments

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Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (2) May 06, 2014
The article author didn't think this through. No one is expecting widespread pareidolia to be abnormal. Reversely, the more it is known as normal, the more mocking will append to people claiming to see preferentially sectarian icons where others do not, and/or claim it is external unlikely 'miracles'.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (5) May 06, 2014
A fact of the matter is, until and unless the "researchers" can prove there was no intelligent hand behind the images, claims are "pareidolia" are just so much doggerel.
And, an important point to remember. There is no such compendium on images other than sacred ones formed "randomly". No Mickey Mouses, Mr. Spocks, Popeyes, Cap'n Crunches. Given the number of God haters and atheists, if pareidolia was so legitimate an "explanation", there should be dozens if not hundreds of pictures coming in every month from spills, toast, splashes, holes in walls, arrangements of stones.
It should be mentioned that Hindus, Buddhists do not see such things so often. But, then, they do not necessarily see the Almighty as interacting so much with humans. Can it be that accepting God interacting with your life will invite Him to interact?
HealingMindN
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2014
Pareidolia is an offshoot from apophenia, a problem solving ability inherent in sentient life forms wherein we recognize patterns in hitherto random data, AKA strange places. There is nothing strange in recognizing patterns, only the way we express our beliefs in what we see. Now, where do I get a Jesus Toaster?
Lex Talonis
5 / 5 (1) May 10, 2014
I saw Jesus gaily dancing on the surface of the sun with his 12 boy friends, at the Celestial Balls Dance.

Sinister1812
not rated yet May 10, 2014
What a load of crap!

"Normal"? Who the hell sees Jesus in a piece of bread?

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