An amulet, a treasure hunt, and a legion of readers mobilized by the false patterns our brains create to make sense of the world around us.
When you look at a rock formation or a car grille or the moon and see a face, that’s a form of apophenia—pareidolia, the construction of coherent visual or auditory stimuli from noise. The Rorschach test: apophenia. Horoscope adherents who see correlations between their star charts and their lives or personalities are engaging in apophenia too. When several unrelated things go wrong in a single morning, it’s apophenia that tells you that you must be dogged by a curse. Most attempts to anticipate what will make newborns stop crying are tinged by apophenia. And if you know anyone who’s convinced herself she has food sensitivities she doesn’t have, based on a supposed pattern in how she feels after eating, feel free to tell her she suffers from apophenia (though you shouldn’t expect it to go over too well).