This “faces in the tree” puzzle is baffling all of us

When I was a child, I was obsessed with optical illusions and Magic Eye books. There was something so surprising and yet comforting about letting my eyes go “fuzzy” and seeing a new image pop out at me. I felt like I had a secret gift. To this day, I have yet to meet a Magic Eye I can’t see.

However, my brain is cooked by this “faces in the tree” puzzle that has taken Twitter by storm.

Everyone who studies the tree claims to see different leaders. Some see Margaret Thatcher, others claim Mickhail Gorbachev. I’m starting to wonder if this our new black-and-blue vs. gold-and-white dress viral phenomenon!

For a little bit of background: the National Leaders Tree was drawn in the 1880s by an unnamed illustrator for Harper’s Illustrated (which makes some of the identified faces less than likely). It has been claimed to represent Indian leaders, South American leaders, British leaders, and Russian leaders — with no consensus reached. While most see only ten faces in the tree, some claim to see twelve.    

This yet again illustrates how humans find meaning in everyday occurrences. As scientists explained during the hysteria involving the Virgin Mary in a piece of burnt toast, humans all experience “face pareidolia,” a phenomenon in which visual stimuli appear to resemble an unrelated object or person. We are hardwired to recognize faces, and researchers say this means many people may instinctually identify the contours and features of faces on virtually anything — from clouds to the surface of Mars to a grilled cheese sandwich. Humans are similarly predisposed to spot animals, letters, and numbers. In other words, we look for meaning, whether we realize it or not. It’s part of what makes us human. (Images via Twitter)