Ever tried to look for shapes in clouds, or seen a face in the trees where there are shadows? Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon that causes people to see patterns in random things where there aren’t any.
It is often hypothesized that people who are more religious, or believe in the supernatural, are more prone to pareidolia. Women seem to be more prone to seeing faces where there are none. This may be linked to the fact that they have a better ability to recognize emotions through deciphering facial expressions.
Whoever you are, whatever you’re doing, you can experience pareidolia. Don’t let it shock you, it’s just your ancient survival instincts kicking in. As soon as we're born, we start to look for faces and it’s a product of millions of years of evolution. One reason is that our ancestors needed to avoid predators or find prey, all of which have faces. And a second reason is that humans are very social animals. When we interact with each other, we need to know if the other person is a friend or foe.
There is also such a thing as audio pareidolia, where the human brain interprets random sounds as having a familiar or sought after pattern. It doesn't get as much attention as visual pareidolia, but it does exist. (ex: Barred owls are notorious for making wild crazy sounds other than hoots and at times can sound like apes)
How to Avoid Pareidolia
When you see possible faces, a Bigfoot, or other meaningful shapes in the background of your photographs, be skeptical and remind yourself that this could just be pareidolia in action.
Debunk your photographs if you think you see a Bigfoot in them. Go back out to the place where you took the photograph at the same time of the day to see if it could have been caused by shadows, stumps, branches, bark or trees. The woods and swamps have lots of dead trees, branches, burnt tree stumps and leaves around which creates all kinds of dark shadows and dark images in photos.
Be more aware of the pictures you are getting ready to take. Review and analyze what you are looking at in your camera viewfinder at the time you are getting ready to take a photo. If you see a dark spot that looks like a possible Bigfoot, then go out and explore the spot at that time to see if there’s something really there or not.
Ask other people what they see; you may be surprised to find out that they do not see the same thing as you, until you have to point it out to them. This is usually a sign of pareidolia.
If you didn’t see any Bigfoots at the time you were out in the woods taking pictures and then you think you see Bigfoots within the trees when reviewing your photographs later, that is usually a sign of pareidolia in action. (These creatures are highly elusive)
Pareidolia is a natural tendency of your brain, so do not try to assign any higher meaning to it. (ex. If you see Jesus on a piece of toast, this is pareidolia, not a message from him)
As serious researchers, we all need to remain skeptical and DEBUNK, DEBUNK and DEBUNK some more before claiming there is an actual Bigfoot or Skunk Ape in photographs or videos.
Just remember…not every dark spot or shadow in the woods is a Bigfoot or Skunk Ape!