Pareidolia: A Central Feature of Paranormal Media (Film and TV)


A full-length (3,028 words) academic essay on the topic “To what extent is pareidolia a central feature of paranormal media and cinema?”

The essay covers several areas including;

  • Elements of pareidolia in paranormal media
  • Pareidolia in mystery and horror films – with examples
  • Pareidolia in Haunted  reality TV shows – with examples
  • Media, Medium, and Pareidolia – the relationship
  • Significance of Pareidolia in Cinema

Further, the essay’s content answers [by extension] the questions;

  • What causes pareidolia
  • Is pareidolia normal
  • Examples of pareidolia


Introduction to pareidolia

A definition by Zhou and Meng (2020, p.1), cites pareidolia as the tendency “….to see faces from non-face objects or meaningless patterns.” This definition is specific to seeing faces in otherwise inanimate objects such as mountains and clouds. Some examples offered by Zhou and Meng (2020) include faces seen on mars, Mother Teresa on a cinnamon bun, and Virgin Mary on a toast. Pareidolia is also described by Nees and Phillips (2015) as “…perceive[ing] meaningful forms in suggestive configurations of ambiguous stimuli”. Nees and Phillips (2015) focus on auditory pareidolia which they argue primarily constitutes the electronic voice phenomena (EVP) common in modern ghost hunting films. The example of auditory pareidolia offered by Nees and Phillips (2015) comprises hearing mechanical noises, natural noises, tones, and human voices in otherwise white noise. Visual and auditory perceptions are thus central to defining pareidolia.

Pareidolia elements critical to paranormal media

Paranormal media has inherent characteristics that distinguish it from other types of media. Northcote (2013) for instance, in defining the category, emphasises it being ‘unexplained’ or ‘inexplicable’ based on normal scientific theories. Acknowledging the ambiguity of what ‘normal’ is to a varied audience, Northcote (2013) restricts…………….

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