Jesus Toast researchers win silly science award

(Photo: Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation)

A team of researchers who looked into why people see things like the face of Jesus in patterns has scooped one of this year's Ig Noble prizes.

The awards, presented by Improbable Research, are a light-hearted nod to scientific studies of the unconventional – research the organisers say "makes people laugh and then think".

This year's awards went to researchers who studied the link between pork strips and stopping nosebleeds, the reaction of reindeer to humans dressed in polar bear suits, and the slipperiness of banana peels.

Although the studies may appear ridiculous on the surface, the findings are often thought-provoking and meaningful in their own right.

Another Ig Nobel prize went to scientists who found that dogs align themselves along the north-south axis of the Earth's magnetic field when they poop.

Doctors who were able to stop severe nosebleeding by packing nostrils with cured pork were also recognised.

Among those honoured at least week's ceremony were researchers from the University of Toronto who carried out a "Seeing Jesus in Toast" study.

More specifically, the study probed deeper into pareidolia – the scientific term for seeing non-existent faces.

Despite the study's title, participants were not shown faces but rather "pure noise images".

The researchers found that participants saw faces in the "noise" 34 per cent of the time, and letters 38 per cent of the time.

"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 abstract read.