Canadian-led 'Jesus in toast' study wins Ig Nobel Prize at Harvard
Do you see Jesus on these pieces of toast? New study says that most people will. (Photos provided by Kang Lee)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, September 18, 2014 8:10PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 18, 2014 9:18PM EDT
CAMBRIDGE -- A Canadian-led study about the ability to see famous faces in everyday objects was one of the winners of the Ig Nobel Prize awarded at Harvard University on Thursday.
The annual honours -- a spoof of the Nobel Prize -- are produced by science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, and celebrate unusual, imaginative and humorous scientific achievements.
Ten Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded each year since 1991 with several real Nobel Laureates handing out the awards each ceremony.
University of Toronto professor Kang Lee was lead author of the study "Seeing Jesus in toast: Neural and behavioral correlates of face pareidolia" published in the journal Cortex earlier this year.
The research was conducted with partner institutions in China and explored the phenomenon of "face pareidolia" where individuals report seeing well-known faces in bread, clouds, smoke or rock formations.
Lee, a developmental neuroscientist, and his team of researchers found that such recognition is normal and based on how the brain interprets and makes sense of visual stimuli.
The buzzed-about study made international headlines including items published by Time Magazine and The Daily Mail and The Independent in the U.K.
"We didn't realize really when we published that there was so much interest in our study," Lee said in a phone interview ahead of the awards ceremony, adding that he spoke with outlets in Brazil, Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. about the research.
Lee said he believes the reason the study has resonated with so many people stems from researchers confirming evidence of a phenomenon once dismissed as folly.
"I think probably this is first time we are actually telling people: 'This is OK for you to see Jesus on toast,"' he said.
"People used to laugh at these kinds of reports. People used to laugh at people reporting seeing things like this. So we are confirming that actually it's a very normal part of our perception."