The One Psychological Trick That’s Fooled Everyone On Tumblr Into Seeing “Faces” And “Lizards” In NASA Mars Photos

This “face” on Mars was photographed by NASA’s Viking 1 Orbiter in 1976. Alien-enthusiasts speculate that it is evidence of an ancient alien civilization on Mars.

NASA
NASA

But despite being near-universally accepted that it is an optical illusion, a LOT of people still cite the “face” as evidence of a conspiracy by NASA to cover up an ancient Martian civilization. For example, this Tumblr post from last Saturday about the “face” — and other Martian rocks that look like things on Earth — has over 50,000 notes.

tumblr

The Tumblr post not only argues that there’s ‘something up’ with the “face,” but also shows a number of other curious looking formations that NASA has captured. There’s this thing, that looks an awfully lot like a lizard.

lizard

And there’s this “frozen woman,” that looks like a very tiny woman falling backward.

woman

And this “thigh bone.”

The Tumblr post "proves" this is "real" by saying that while the scientists at NASA say the rock was sculpted by erosion, "others" say that it is "impossible" for "wind and erosion [to shape] a rock in such a bizarre manner."

And this “iguana.”

According to the Tumblr post, after NASA was made aware of the "iguana" and refused to turn the rover around to investigate further, "some began to wonder if NASA were purposefully planting life on the Red Planet."

And this “rat.”

rat

Freaky! While these images do resemble things we are familiar with, that doesn’t change the fact that they are rocks—not ancient aliens paying homage to life on earth. Instead of aliens, what’s at work here is a psychological concept that’s been crucial to our survival since the beginning of our species.

Natural rock formation or evidence of an ancient civilization of giant elderly humanoids? // Credit: Ekamaloff
Natural rock formation or evidence of an ancient civilization of giant elderly humanoids? // Credit: Ekamaloff

It’s called pareidolia, and it’s a form of apophenia, which refers to the human tendency to identify patterns or connections in random or meaningless information. Take a look at this image.

face

You automatically and subconsciously identify these three circles and a line as a face, despite the image having only a few basic features of a face. But two things that share a few features do not make those things the same.

Here’s an image of the Martian “face” taken with better imaging equipment.

Face_on_Mars_with_Inset

Why are we so susceptible to pareidolia? Why do we subconsciously assume connections and patterns in the face of insignificant, random information? Because there is extraordinary survival benefit to it.

"I saw a face looking up at me... It was Virgin Mary staring back at me. I was in total shock." — said the Florida woman who made this grilled cheese sandwich and later sold it on eBay as a religious relic for $28,000.
“I saw a face looking up at me… It was Virgin Mary staring back at me. I was in total shock.” — said the Florida woman who made this grilled cheese sandwich and later sold it on eBay as a religious relic for $28,000.

Back when humans had to fight the elements for their survival every day, it was incredibly useful to successfully identify patterns in nature. For example, connecting a rustling in the grass with the approach of a lethal predator — rather than a breeze in the wind — greatly increases your chances of survival and reproduction.

Kelly Rammy, who in 2008 says she found a Jesus icon in a bag of Cheetos.
Kelly Rammy, who in 2008 literally claimed she found Jesus in a bag of Cheetos.

And the ability to seek and recognize faces is hard-wired into our brains from birth, granting us immense evolutionary and survival benefit.

Credit: Jose Luis Martinez Alvarez
Incorrectly identify your caveman friend as your caveman enemy, and soon things are going to go horribly wrong for you. // Credit: Jose Luis Martinez Alvarez

We are programmed to not only see connections and patterns in random information that aren’t there, but often, to make those patterns into “faces.” Over the history of our species, pareidolia has helped us survive.

But that still doesn’t make this Martian rock a sculpture of President Barack Obama.

altereddimensions.net // Star Trek
altereddimensions.net // Star Trek

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