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Our brains are hard-wired to find meaningful images in random lines and shapes—even if those figures are on the moon.
For as long as humans have lived on Earth, the moon has been our nearest celestial companion and a rich natural canvas for the human imagination.
In Western cultures, perhaps the most familiar vision is "the man in the moon." In East Asian cultures, moon-gazers might point to a rabbit; in India, a pair of hands. From ancient times to the modern era, from different spots on the globe, a tree, a woman, and a toad have all been found hiding in the moon's shining face.
Astronomer Carl Sagan argued that perhaps recognizing faces, even in vague shapes, is evolutionarily advantageous.
Joel Voss proposes another explanation: Think of the human brain as a flexible, all-purpose machine meant to succeed in whatever random environment it inhabits. To triumph in strange places, the brain must be able to quickly process unfamiliar visual stimuli—like new shapes and lines—and figure out what's worth paying attention to. Seeing faces and figures is merely a consequence of the brain's tendency to match stored information with new stimuli.
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