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Following the negative sentiments on the Nike ad campaigns just previously posted, I came across an interesting term in psychology partly related to the reaction to the cross-symbology.

Pareidolia describes the phenomenon of attaching significance to seemingly random stimuli. It falls under the general category of apophenia–which is the “pattern seeking” tendency in people. Although pareidolia is not strictly confined to religious context, a number of cases of pareidolia have religious connotations.

Some examples of pareidolia in a religious context:

Virgin Mary on a cheese sandwich

Sun cross on the American Flag

Cross-shaped MP3 player from China

Pope image in flame shape

You can find further examples of religious pareidolia here.

Context is the important factor to consider when facing similar cases of pareidolia–although the cause of the phenomenon is still debatable amongst researchers. In the case of the aforementioned Nike ad–pareidolia tendencies merge with intentional marketing to create the impact and arguably this is proving to be a very effective strategy although evidently some Christians do not enjoy the effect.

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