Especially in the initial stages of these months of lock-down, it will have happened to everyone to turn a gaze towards the sky from the windows of the house in a yearning for freedom. IS in the passing clouds, many would have thought they saw strange shapes, often faces of people or animals. Karl Jaspers already spoke of it in the early 1900s as a hallucinatory phenomenon that the German philosopher-psychiatrist called paleidolia, that is, close image.
They are not hallucinations
But as the studies of the last few years are showing dthere is very little hallucinatory and paleidolia is not just about clouds, but for example also inkblots: who writes well remembers the strange bison that looked at him from a stain on his desk and that accompanied him through all elementary school. Faces can be recognized in the most common objects such as the Elvis Presley potatoes which became famous in America because they resembled the face of the king of Rock ‘n’ Roll or even the Jesus Christ toast in which many Americans thought they saw the image of the Redeemer. A 2012 University of Helsinki study indicated that people who have faith and those who believe in the paranormal tend to see these faces in particular., but the true neurophysiological basis is only now being understood.
The true origin
A study recently published in AP&P (Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics) by Australian researchers from the Department of Cognitive Sciences at Macquarie University in Sydney directed by Robert Keys explains that it is not a consequence of the long quarantine, but a purely neurological phenomenon which, as discovered 4 years ago by Alice Proverbio and Jessica Galli of the Bicocca University of Milan, is more common in women than men because males have less developed emotional brain areas. The face of others for each of us is a fundamental cornerstone of communication and social relations: already at two days of life, children can distinguish the face of the mother from that of a stranger.
Specific brain area
In our brain there is an area that is activated only when we see a face, even if in a photograph: the FFA area, acronym for fusiform face area O giro fusiforme which runs deep above the right ear where it goes from the cheekbones to the nape of the so-called ventral temporo-occipital cortex. As the Australian researchers indicate, the activation of these FFA neurons is much faster at the sight of a face rather than an object and their influence is so strong that it unconsciously leads us to put a face on everything because the human brain is structured to perceive faces. even in complex and chaotic contexts. Not only does Mom instantly recognize her baby in the tide of schoolchildren leaving school after the bell, but we tend to draw features even where there is no face like in a log, a stone or a cloud. In Dal’s Paranoid Face painting we see a woman’s face which in reality consists of a hut in front of which the members of the village sit, while on the horizon a cloud looks like a man with a hat waving his hand
May 27, 2021 (change May 27, 2021 | 5:56 pm)
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