It sounds like a disorder of some kind, but it’s nothing more than the ability to see a cat in the cloud above. Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (usually an image or sound) being perceived as significant. In other words, when you see a little face in a light socket, an animal in a cloud, or a growling mouth in the front grille of a car, that’s pareidolia. It’s about the mind trying to make sense of the abstract, and it’s a great concept to explore with children.
The Rorschach Inkblot Test is a psychological test which uses pareidolia to gain insight into a person’s mental state by showing them images of inkblots and asking them to explain what they see. Making inkblots is a great way to assess the mental health of your little ones…joking…but it is a cool activity, and interesting to look for the familiar in random blobs of ink.
- paint or ink
- pencil crayons
Choose paper that is not too thick, and can easily be folded in half. Now fold the paper in half vertically, open, and apply ink or diluted paint randomly on one side of the centre crease. You can use as many colours as you like.
While it is still wet, fold the paper in half and gently press your hand on top. Open up the paper to see the mirror image that has been created.
Ask kids what they see in these random shapes, like insects, trees, etc. Once dry, they can use pencil crayons to further highlight what they see by contouring and adding details.
Why not have kids explore the idea of pareidolia by looking around their environment with fresh eyes, to see what unexpected things turn up. Geekosystem has some great examples to help them get going.
Finally, my inspiration for this came from the artist Kayla Barbeau, who’s pareidolia inspired work, Anxious Clusters, was shown at the 2012 OCAD Grad Show: