It is thought that there may be some kind of evolutionary advantage to this malfunctioning of the perceptual
apparatus, particularly with regard to our tendency to see faces in commonplace objects. Carl Sagan hypothesized that as a survival technique, human beings are “hard-wired” from birth to identify the human face. While this allows people to use only minimal details to recognize faces from a distance and in poor
visibility, it also lead them to interpret random images or patterns of light and shade as being faces. The evolutionary advantages of being able to identify friend from foe, with split second accuracy, are numerous; prehistoric (and even modern) men and women who accidentally identify an enemy a a fried could face deadly consequences for their mistake. This is only one among many evolutionary pressures responsible for the development of the modern facial recognition capability of humans.
In 2009, a magnetoencephalography study found that objects incidentally perceived as faces, evoke an early
activation in the ventral fusiform cortex, at a time and location similar to that evoked by faces, whereas other
common objects do not evoke such activation. This activation is similar to a slightly earlier peak seen for
images of real faces. The authors suggest that face perception evoked by face-like objects is a relatively
early process, and not a late cognitive reinterpretation phenomenon.
This study has helped to explain why people identify the “face” features, as in the picture below, so quickly
and without hesitation. Precognitive processes are activated by the “face-like” object, which alert the
observer to the emotional state and identity of the subject….even before the conscious mind begins to process
or even receive the information. The “stick figure face”, despite its simplicity, conveys mood information (in
this case, disappointment or mild unhappiness). It would be just as simple to draw a stick figure face that