Shapes-in-clouds process called...?
August 31, 2005 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Looking at clouds in the sky you see objects -- dog, faces, whatever. What's this process called?

I recently saw a specific word that describes the finding-objects-in-clouds process. What's the word? I'm also interested in other words that describe the finding-shapes-in-things process. Is this a Gestalt thing?
posted by timnyc to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's an instance of the built-in human capability for pattern recognition. I don't know any cloud-specific terms, however.
posted by matildaben at 9:21 AM on August 31, 2005

posted by kindall at 9:23 AM on August 31, 2005

This is a particularly spooky example.
posted by kindall at 9:24 AM on August 31, 2005

Kindall - great link, never read that one before... I remember reading a fantastic SF story (I think) about the testing of a nuclear device, where they recorded the explosion in extreme slow-motion... and saw the same kind of devil image. Creepy.
posted by Chunder at 9:29 AM on August 31, 2005

Nephelococcygia is the act of finding shapes in clouds.
posted by bDiddy at 9:31 AM on August 31, 2005

in Google Earth, go to 16*20'37.78" S 71*58'10.58" W and you'll see the face in the sand

I'd call it pattern recognition, but pareidolila seems to be correct. On an interesting note, when you're tired or (*cough* otherwise inhibited) you're far, far more prone to strange types of pattern recognition. In fact, patterns are everywhere, if you bother looking for them.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:41 AM on August 31, 2005

Simulacra is the name used for objects that resemble something. As used in a regular column in the Fortean Times.
posted by edd at 9:53 AM on August 31, 2005

I'm not sure nephelococcygia can be called a word yet, although obviously people are trying to establish it as one and it would be useful. I'd stick with pareidolia for the time being, though that's obscure enough you'll have to explain it every time you use it.
posted by languagehat at 10:42 AM on August 31, 2005

Oh god, thank you kindall! Ever since that one Penn and Teller Episode on religious icons I've been dying to know the spelling for it. I kept getting frustrated typing in "paradolia" into wikipedia and not finding anything.
posted by Lockeownzj00 at 3:01 PM on August 31, 2005

Oddly enough, if you type "paradolia" into Google, the Skeptic's Dictionary page I linked is the #6 result. ;)
posted by kindall at 4:24 PM on August 31, 2005

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