There's a little help with this one that featured upthread.

A new study indicates there's a non-trivial gender bias associated with evaluating illusory faces perceived via pareidolia. The illusory faces are characterized as male more often than female.
Americans tend to assume imaginary faces are male

Why people perceive faces in inanimate objects as male by default is still unclear

There may be a reason we see a man, rather than a maiden, in the moon. When people spot facelike patterns in inanimate objects, those faces are more likely to be perceived as male than female, researchers report in the Feb. 1 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In experiments with over 3,800 U.S. adults recruited online, participants reviewed about 250 photos of illusory faces ... and labeled each one as male, female or neutral. Faces were deemed male about four times as often as they were female. Both male and female participants showed that bias, with about 80 percent of participants labeling more images male than female. Only 3 percent judged more to be female than male. The remaining 17 percent of respondents were fairly evenhanded in their labels.

In follow-up experiments, participants did not show the same bias toward images of the same kinds of objects without illusory faces. That finding helped rule out the possibility that participants viewed something about the underlying objects as masculine or feminine. Computer models that scoured the illusory face photos for stereotypically masculine or feminine elements — such as more angular or curved features (SN: 6/29/01) — couldn’t explain the bias, either. ...

“There’s this asymmetry in our perception,” says study author Susan Wardle ... Given the most basic pattern of a face, as is seen in illusory faces, “we’re more likely to see it as male, and it requires additional features to see it as female,” Wardle says. She points to the fact that female emojis and Lego characters are often distinguished from their male counterparts by the addition of bigger lips, longer lashes or other feminizing features.

It’s not yet clear why people perceive the basic structure of a face as male by default, Wardle says. But in a more recent study, she and her colleagues found the same gender bias in grade school kids as young as about 5 — suggesting it arises early in life. ...
Here are the bibliographic details, significance statement, and abstract for the published research report.

Illusory faces are more likely to be perceived as male than female
Susan G. Wardle, Sanika Paranjape, Jessica Taubert, Chris I. Baker
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Feb 2022, 119 (5) e2117413119
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2117413119

Face pareidolia is the phenomenon of perceiving illusory faces in inanimate objects. Here we show that illusory faces engage social perception beyond the detection of a face: they have a perceived age, gender, and emotional expression. Additionally, we report a striking bias in gender perception, with many more illusory faces perceived as male than female. As illusory faces do not have a biological sex, this bias is significant in revealing an asymmetry in our face evaluation system given minimal information. Our result demonstrates that the visual features that are sufficient for face detection are not generally sufficient for the perception of female. Instead, the perception of a nonhuman face as female requires additional features beyond that required for face detection.

Despite our fluency in reading human faces, sometimes we mistakenly perceive illusory faces in objects, a phenomenon known as face pareidolia. Although illusory faces share some neural mechanisms with real faces, it is unknown to what degree pareidolia engages higher-level social perception beyond the detection of a face. In a series of large-scale behavioral experiments (ntotal = 3,815 adults), we found that illusory faces in inanimate objects are readily perceived to have a specific emotional expression, age, and gender. Most strikingly, we observed a strong bias to perceive illusory faces as male rather than female. This male bias could not be explained by preexisting semantic or visual gender associations with the objects, or by visual features in the images. Rather, this robust bias in the perception of gender for illusory faces reveals a cognitive bias arising from a broadly tuned face evaluation system in which minimally viable face percepts are more likely to be perceived as male.

I remember far back in my youth/student days, living in my first houseshare. This was before I had even discovered Fortean Times or heard of this phenomenon....1990/1991.

All my housemates had left for the weekend (this was usual) but I had a friend over for the evening.

I was a fan of those lenses that give kaleidoscope effects - clear lenses that enable you to look at things and see multiples of them etc....Like making the world into a 70s Top of The Pops episode.....I had a couple of different lenses I looked through every now and again for a laugh.

I remember looking at different parts of the room through the lense and suddenly spotting that the radiator nob had a face......Once I had seen it, I couldn't stop looking at it.....

I think once you read about/see other examples of the phenomenon you become aware of how common it is. And the internet means people can find examples easily online. At the time it was totally random and amusing.... :hahazebs:

I wish I had taken a photograph (although without a telephoto lense etc it probably would have been unimpressive). I can visualise exactly how it looked. It was just a plain white knob with indented bits on it to help you turn it. It might have been a bit discoloured or dirty but the way the light and shade were hitting it it had a face...

And I think it was probably male too...... :D
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The Mysterious 'Pareidolia' Phenomenon Turns Out to Have a Surprising Bias

It's fun sometimes when your eyes play tricks on you, and you see a face that isn't really there, staring back at you from a power plug or a potato. This phenomenon is called face pareidolia, and it's something that humans, and even chimps, naturally do.


But it looks like facial features aren't the only thing that we see when we come across an illusory face. A new study has found that we also see age, emotion, and gender – and strangely enough the vast majority of these funny faces are perceived as male faces.

The researchers recruited 3,815 participants for an online experiment, asking them to look at over 200 photos of illusory faces, which the team sourced from the internet as well as their personal collections.

The applicants saw mostly young faces in the photos – seeing them as either a child or a young adult.

Emotions on the other hand were quite varied, with 34 percent of the images perceived as happy, 19 percent surprised, 19 percent neutral, and 14 percent angry. A smaller number of faces were perceived as showing sadness, fear, or disgust.


But what really caught the researchers' attention was that the perceived gender of these faces massively skewed towards male.

"The magnitude of this gender difference was substantial: 90 percent of illusory face images had a male mean rating, while only 9 percent of images had a female mean rating," the team writes in their new paper.

maximus otter
Can anyone direct me to info about why the rocks in this area have these divots? It seems glacial but I'm curious. Is the dark spot a collection of debris/dirt in the hole as it appears?

“Stanton Moor consists of an outlier of Millstone Grit, known as Ashover Grit. This is a coarse-grained sandstone which weathers to produce coarse sub-soils, rich in sand, and the soils themselves are typically podzols. The Ashover Grit sandstone layer lies on top of shale, which in turn lie upon Carboniferous limestone. The whole of the moor is of geological interest as a syncline.”

maximus otter
I spent most of my childhood around these moors on Baslow/Curbar and Froggatt edges. There are also hundreds of discarded millstones around these area in various stages of production- some finished, some just started but then abandoned.
Actually, this piece doesn't look like a failed millstone but a glacial pothole. I wonder if the underlying reason is the same - the rock can be worn away quite easily with a little effort.
Actually, this piece doesn't look like a failed millstone but a glacial pothole. I wonder if the underlying reason is the same - the rock can be worn away quite easily with a little effort.
No, this isn't a millstone, but yes the rock is relatively easy to work. (There is limestone nearby which is much harder.)
Also, it takes years for rock to erode through natural processes. Maybe that piece of rock was once underneath a source of dripping water which created the hollow, and then the rock subsequently got moved by glaciation and deposited there as moraine.