Pareidolia, Matrixing, and Deduction

Written by Mark Stinson - Ghost Vigil Investigations

(NOTE:  All of the Illustrations in this article are examples of Pareidolia)


The term pareidolia, referenced in 1994 by Steven Goldstein, describes a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, and hidden messages on records played in reverse. The word comes from the Greek para- — beside, with or alongside — and eidolon — image (the diminutive of eidos — image, form, shape).

I think the fact that people see a blue shape on this video and call it an "angel," because the shape is oblong and blue...suggesting a human form...and a blue hazy glow they somehow associate with "angels," is pareidolia. Their mind is taking incomplete indefinite image they don't fully understand, and creating something completely defined out of it. An "angel." Once they have concluded the blue oblong blob is an "angel," the more times they see it...the more it looks like an angel to them.

Same for the blob of cinnamon on a piece of French Toast that looks like Jesus. Same for the waterstain under a bridge that looks like the Virgin Mary. Same as the bushes and trees in a photo that appear to be a civil war soldier. Same for a cloud bank in the sky that looks like a pirate ship. Same for indistinct shapes in a video that appear briefly in one or two captured frames to be an indian on horseback. Same...well, you get the idea.

In all of these cases, the human mind is taking imcomplete, indistinct, shapes, forms, etc., and turning them into something the mind can define and understand. The mind takes certain visual clues, fills in the blanks, and "sees" something much more than what is there. The more we see the indistinct shape or form, the more the mind becomes convinced that its definition is the correct one.

From Wikipedia: The Rorschach inkblot test uses pareidolia to attempt to gain insight into a person's mental state.

So Pareidolia is exactly the process at work during a Rorschach inkblot test. They have also performed auditory Rorschach tests. And many times, Pareidolia is likely at work when we are analyzing some EVP's. Not all of them...but some of them. The ones where everyone who listens to it hears something a little different. This is likely Pareidolia at work.

And this points out the fact that Pareidolia works on not only the visual level, but also the auditory level. etc. It is a broad definition applying to whenever the mind "fills in the blanks" and creates something very defined from visual input (forms and shapes) or auditory input that are not well defined. It is also not limited to pixelation or random blurriness. That would be Matrixing, not Pareidolia.



A authoritative and legitimate definition for this term is difficult to find.

Matrixing is in many ways a subset of Pareidolia, but has more to do with random patterns of pixels, random elements within a photo, etc. On Ghosthunters, they use matrixing rather than the word Pareidolia all the time, and many paranormal investigators do this as well. But the words do not mean exactly the same thing.

I know we use this word to refer to pixels, blurring in videos and photos, and our interpretation of that pixelation and blurring...but maybe someone else will have better luck finding a definition for this word somewhere other than a ghosthunting website.


Now, when a person looks at the blue blob in this video and starts trying to figure out what it actually is. Looking beyond its vague features, and applying everything they know about video images, the movement of bugs, etc. That is deduction. In many ways deduction is the opposite of Pareidolia. Rather than taking in minimal visual clues, and allowing the mind to "fill in the blanks," and jump to a visual conclusion about what the mind is seeing...Deduction involves ignoring those visual clues to some degree, and trying to look beyond them.


Deduction involves all of our knowledge, past experience, and our insight. Pareidolia involves the mind jumping to conclusions, and shortcutting all of these processes our mind is capable of.

When I take a photo of a line of trees with a "civil war soldier" image along the tree line, and I begin to do color comparisons between colors in the "civil war soldier" and the colors of other plants along the tree line...and I show that the civil war soldier is simply a composite of leaves, limbs, and shadow that vaguely looks like a civil war soldier. That is deduction. That is getting beyond the mind's inclination to jump to visual conclusions and really figure the photo out.

When we look at the blue fuzzy shape on the gas station video, and based on our knowledge and experience, conclude that the image may not have been caused by a big fuzzy thing or even something that is blue...that is when we are using deduction. We use our knowledge of out-of-focus shapes on video images, we use our knowledge of all the "bug" videos we've ever seen, and we come to a conclusion that is actually counter to what Pareidolia would likely tell us. Yes the first time I see the blue fuzzy shape, my mind says..."wow, that sort of looks like a creepy blue shape floating around the gasstation parking lot." But then you move beyond that Pareidolia conclusion, and move to your reasoning and deduction.  That represents taking a grounded, reasonable approach.


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