Seen Jesus on your toast? Relax, it's normal, say researchers

Published 09 May 2014
(Photo: Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation)

If you've ever done a double take as you pulled your toast out the toaster to see the face of Jesus staring back at you, you can rest assured that such sightings of the Messiah are completely normal, according to a Canadian study.

Researchers at the University of Toronto examined brain responses to faces in patterns to learn more about face pareidolia - the scientific term for seeing non-existent faces.  

When participants in the study were shown "pure noise images", participants were led to believe that half of them contained either faces or letters. 

Participants saw faces in the images 34 per cent of the time, and letters 38 per cent of the time, according to the researchers. 

The study looked at the brain responses and brain scans of 20 men aged between 18 and 25, and found that the brain's frontal cortex sends signals to the posterior visual context that attempts to make sense of what is being seen.

"Our findings suggest that human face processing has a strong top-down component whereby sensory input with even the slightest suggestion of a face can result in the interpretation of a face," the study abstract reads.  

The face of Jesus has popped up in some interesting places over the years. Rosalie Lawson, a churchgoer in St Petersburg, Florida, spotted his face in a Lay's potato chip in 2005.

Lisa Swinton of Haberfield, Australia, spotted Jesus's face as she was about to tuck into a banana.

She told Australian newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, "I was like 'Oh my God! It's Jesus on a banana!' I got it out of the fruit bowl and was about to peel it and eat it when I saw his face."

For Donna Lee, spotting Jesus on a pierogi proved a miracle in more ways than one when the humble dumpling sold on eBay for $1775.

It was scooped up by the Golden Palace casino, which has bought a number of holy curios, including paying $28,000 for a decade-old toasted cheese sandwich that had the likeness of the Virgin Mary on one side.  

"Most people think you have to be mentally abnormal to see these types of images, so individuals reporting this phenomenon are often ridiculed', said lead researcher Professor Kang Lee, the University of Toronto.

"But our findings suggest it's common for people to see non-existent features because human brains are uniquely wired to recognise faces, so that even when there's only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain automatically interprets it as a face." 

If you're disappointed that you haven't yet seen the image of Jesus on your toast, you can always cheat with a Jesus toaster from the Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation.  

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