Neuroscientist Explains Sighting Of Objects On Mars To Pareidolia

| Sep 06, 2015 03:28 AM EDT

Can you spot the spoon on Mars? This image was taken by Mastcam: Left (MAST_LEFT) onboard NASA's Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 1089 (2015-08-30 01:00:25 UTC).

A doll's head, a leg bone and now a spoon. Those are the objects allegedly seen on Mars based on feeds by the Curiosity Rover. The latest sighting on Aug. 30 was that a spoon, which paranormal groups immediately say is a proof of alien life on Mars.

In reality, those so-called objects are just rock formations shaped by the wind on the Red Planet. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) term for it is ventifact.

According to NASA presentation, knobs or projections on the surface are eroded by the wind, especially if a harder, less-erodible rock is on top of it. In turn, the wind-eroded, or ventifacted, surface are caused by many fine particles such as the dust or sand that impact the surface over time.

Ventifacts also happen on Earth. NASA cited the dolerite rock in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. It was a group of rocks that began as a single rock but broke apart over time. Wind erosion caused the surface to appear gray, while the reddish part is because of weathered surface or rock patina.

A neuroscientist, Joel Voss, explains the phenomenon of the brain recognizing objects in a field of visual noises to pareidolia. That happens because the human mind tries to turn unknown images into something familiar, traced to the brain's lazy sensory-motor cortex, reports Gizmondo.

Voss published a scientific paper on pareidolia in the Oxford Journal. He says the brain is not very skeptical when processing what it sees. Rather, "it goes for the path of least resistance when presented with visual cues, and actively tries to recognize familiar shapes," quotes Vice.com.

It also explains why some people see images of famous persons such as Elvis Presley or Jesus Christ on a potato chip or grilled cheese sandwich. And why people continue seeing other images such as rats, mermaids and even acts of sorcery on Mars.

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