The many faces of …


During the month of February the TEDxVienna blog will be hosting an “exhibition” of articles, photos and videos dedicated to the many faces of .. the earth, learning, science and design, objects, nature and people. We will explore opportunities, challenges, possibilities and impossibilities, pros and cons, layers of truth and different perspectives and we invite you to join the conversation on this month’s blog theme: “The Many Faces Of…”

Capture the hidden faces of Vienna

A first step in exploring the multi-layered world we live in, is actually a challenge for you. We want you to send us your photos of faces you identify in different objects. Take a closer look at what surrounds you, go after the details in your home, your school, on your desk, in your favorite store, in your neighborhood, at your favorite museum,  etc. and capture the cool faces of Vienna! Something very much like here.

Share your photos with us on one of our social media channels and don’t forget to use the hashtag #manyfacesof. We will collect your best submissions in a Facebook album and share your work of art with the entire TEDx community by creating a blog posting with your best photos.

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But wait a minute… Why do we see faces everywhere we look?

Answers to these question have been sought after by biologists, computer scientists, psychologists and most importantly, us, all humans who cannot really tell whether it’s pure coincidence or there’s an actual scientific explanation why we tend to identify faces quite easily and quickly in objects, colors, clouds and other things that surround us. There is even a scientific term for this and it’s pareidolia and these are the explanations:

A first explanation comes from Doris Tsao, a neuroscientist at the University of Bremen in Germany who investigated phenomenon on monkeys and showed there is a special area in the brain that lights up whenever it detects the common features of a face but also occasionally in response to objects of enough resemblance to actual faces.

A second perspective comes from cognitive scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Pawan Sinha who conducted a lot of research in computer science, namely security software development. He demonstrates that similarly to computers that make mistakes in facial recognition because not all faces match the same regularities, the human brain also sees faces wherever exposed to an object that reminds us of what a face should look like.

On the other hand, Takeo Watanabe, a neuroscientist at the Boston University believes that the learning processes in the human brain are responsible for this happy “coincidence”. After being exposed so much to a stimulus, in this case the face of every one around him/her, a person will automatically perceive that stimulus even in its absence.

So now, knowing why it happens, there’s only one thing left for you to do. Take your phone or camera, keep your eyes wide open, catch the faces around you and share them with us!

Happy discovery of Viennese faces!

Photo sources: this and this.
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