- Also known as pareidolic illusion, partial hallucination, and 'additional image perception' (German: Nebenbildwahrnehmung). The term parei-dolia comes from the Greek words para (beside, near, resembling, accessory to, beyond, apart from, abnormal) and eidos (image, appearance, looks). The terms Pareidolie and Nebenbild-wahrnehmung were introduced in or shortly before 1885 by the Russian psychiatrist Victor Kandinsky (1849-1889) to denote a partial * visual hallucination in which a person's face is literally and consistently perceived as someone else's (as in the * intermetamorphosis syndrome), or where a given object is perceived as a different object. Some common examples ofpareidolia are the perception of a face or animal's head in a patterned background such as a wallpaper motif, a cloud, a stain on the wall, or a curtain. One well-known pareidolia was reported in 1978 by a New Mexican woman, who had discerned the face of Jesus Christ in the burn marks of a tortilla, and had subsequently put it on display for visitors, who came in their thousands to share in the experience. Because of the presence of an actual pattern in the extracorporeal world, pareidolia may be classified as a * cognitive illusion. Kandinsky himself, however, argues that it occupies a sort of middle ground - or perhaps one should say a common ground - between the hallucination and the illusion. As he explains, "This type of illusion... is... basically also a hallucination, distinguishing itself from the more regular hallucination only because the inner impulse, the inner anomaly is not sufficient for its occurrence, and that a certain exterior impulse must be added, so that the hallucination is not a complete one, but only a partial one." Today the occurrence of pareidolia tends to be attributed to *apophenia, i.e. an excess of perceptual or heuristic sensitivity leading to the discernment of patterns or connections in random or otherwise meaningless data. Following the latter approach, advocated by the German neurologist and psychiatrist Klaus Conrad (1905-1961), the notion of pareidolia has a bearing on an even wider range of illusory phenomena, including the discernment of religious imagery and themes (such as the face of Jesus, or the word Jesus) in random visual patterns, and the discernment of meaningful auditory messages in musical lyrics played backwards. The latter type of pareidolia is referred to as * auditory pareidolia. In association tests such as the Rorschach inkblot test, pareidolia is used deliberately as a diagnostic tool for the assessment of affect-laden preoccupations and other mental characteristics.ReferencesGodderis, J. (2001). Bestaan dingen alleen als men ze ziet? Historische, fenomenologisch-psychiatrische en metapsychologische reflecties inzake de waarneming, de verbeelding en het hal-lucineren. Leuven: Garant.Jaspers, K. (1997). Generalpsychopathology. Volume 1. Translated by Hoenig, J., Hamilton, M.W. Baltimore, MA: Johns Hopkins University Press.Kandinsky, V. (1885). Kritische und klinische Betrachtungen im Gebiete der Sinnestäuschungen. Erste und zweite Studie. Berlin: Verlag von Friedländer und Sohn.Reed, G. (1972). The psychology of anomalous experience. A cognitive approach. London: Hutchinson & Co.
Dictionary of Hallucinations. J.D. Blom. 2010.