Jesus has made another appearance in a food product, and this time, it’s a pancake. It seems he’s partial to appearing in carbohydrates, for who could possibly forget the famous occurrences of Jesus in a tortilla and Jesus on toast? Those events made national headlines just like this latest incarnation which occurred at a diner in California. When a waitress at The Cowgirl Café flipped that flapjack, she nearly fainted. Jesus’ face had unmistakably appeared on the surface. When Jesus appears in food and even non-food items, there’s a very good reason, and it’s time to find out why.
The human brain is an incredibly complex organ. There are certain regions of the brain that are set aside for different functions, such as language processing, speech, hearing, and many other natural occurrences found in healthy individuals. One thing that the brain is hardwired to do is to recognize patterns. It’s also programmed to recognize faces and make order out of chaos; so much so that it is possible for most people to see a face, or multiple faces, in many patterned surfaces. It’s why people can look at clouds and see distinct shapes, patterns and faces. It’s the same reason why an “angel” appeared in a cloud over the twin towers after they fell on 9-11.
This ability to recognize faces, process chaos into order and pick out patterns is so prevalent in the human brain that infants process faces as if their brains were already almost fully grown adult brains. In other words–they are able to recognize faces long before being able to do just about anything else. In a study performed by Stanford University, scientists found that infants who were not even one hour old stared at faces longer than at anything else put in front of them. By measuring brain waves of these babies, researchers were able to tell that their brains were processing the information they were seeing in the same region of their brains as adults—an area set aside for processing faces.
Since humans are literally born with a region of their brain that’s specifically hardwired for seeing and processing faces, it’s no surprise that it’s easy to find faces in patterns, even if those patterns are just stray marks left from a pan or an irregular pattern on toast. In addition to being programmed to recognize faces, the human brain is a “pattern recognition machine” that’s hardwired to analyze input and make a decision on how that input will be perceived. The scientific name for seeing faces in random patterns is “pareidolia.”
Almost all healthy human brains have this ability, but there’s another factor that goes into how often a particular person will see a face in a pattern on a surface, and it relates to the person’s level of religious belief. According to a study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, people who had more belief in the supernatural had a greater tendency to see faces in objects than did non-believers, and this fact did not only apply to religious images, but also to general images such as the “face” image returned to Earth by the Mars Rover, for example. That image may look like a face, but it’s actually just a rock. In the same way, the image on the pancake may look like Jesus, but it’s actually created from normal markings left from the cooking process. It is easy for some people to look at the pancake picture and “switch” the brain to seeing it as being composed of normal markings by tilting the head slightly and focusing on the fact that the markings are routine.
Therefore, there’s a good reason why Jesus appears on pancakes, toast, tortillas and other foodstuffs, and science makes it easy to find out why: it’s pareidolia; a normal function of the human brain.