Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pareidolia, Prototype Theory and Jesus on Toast

The other day I overheard a snippet of a conversation in the checkout lane of the local grocery. A group of young women were looking at a picture on their mobile phone of a slice of toast that supposedly depicted the image of Jesus. One young lady said, "That ain't Jesus! Jesus don't look nuthin' like that!"

Jesus on Toast

Of course finding an image of Jesus (or Buddha or Donovan McNabb or whoever) on a piece of toast is simple pareidolia which is a common phenomenon of perceiving random patterns as having significant meaning. So I asked the young lady, "What does Jesus look like?" Understandably, she looked away and the conversation ended (I am not pretty and she didn't know me from Adam). Still, I wonder what she sees when she thinks of Jesus.

Many people in the US, when they think of Jesus, instantly see this picture in their mind:

White Protestant Jesus

Catholic Americans are more likely to see a picture similar to this:

Catholic Jesus

Of course everyone has a slightly different image in their mind when they hear any word. Consider the word "dog." Most everyone knows what a dog is and most everyone can see a mental image of a dog when the word is understood. Of course, these images are always different (I always see my first dog, Rex, who was a black German shepherd). This phenomenon is anticipated by Prototype Theory and is just part of normal congnitive development.

Still, I wish that young lady would have described what she saw when she thought of Jesus. If she watches a lot of TV, I wonder if she saw this:

South Park Jesus

Does she like movies? If so, maybe she saw this:

Buddy Christ

Maybe she secretly likes Steampunk and saw this:

Steampunkin' Jesus

I wonder how anyone can see this:

Extreme Jesus?

The moment is past to hear from the young lady, but what do you see?

-Safari Bob

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