Your face in every flower

Billie Holiday sings about the phenomenon of seeing meaningful patterns in vague or non-connected visual information in her well-known track The Very Thought of You

Scientifically, these effects are known as pareidolia or apophenia.

However, the song notes that the perceptual biases are induced by love and, of course, ‘The Very Thought of You’.

I see your face in every flower
Your eyes in stars above
It’s just the thought of you,
The very thought of you, my love

For those tempted to connect these experience with Billie Holiday’s heavy drug use, which can cause these forms of misperception both through their immediate and long-term effects, it’s worth noting that the song was not written by her and was covered by a number of famous jazz artists, of which Holiday was perhaps the most famous.

Link to Holiday’s version of the song on YouTube.
Link to information on the song on Wikipedia.

6 thoughts on “Your face in every flower”

  1. Yes, apophenia was coined by a Nazi psychiatrist to label those with a penchant for making Type I errors (false positives). I couldn’t find a label for those with a penchant for making Type II errors (false negatives) so I coined the term “periphenia” in my 2009 book ‘Anomaly’. *shrugs

  2. Slight reductionist explanation don’t you think? The lyrics point to seeing the object of love in every flower, not just entertaining one that could resemble the Virgin Mary. And she’s not seeing the formation of eyes through a celestial pattern, its the glimmer of stars in general. The word I would use to describe the singer’s experience is Love, but if you can think of a better term for the notion then let me know.

  3. This whole post seems like an example of perceptual bias.
    IMO, the song simply refers to the fact that when someone is newly infatuated with another human being, literally *everything* — no matter how innocuous– reminds them of the object of that infatuation.
    No fancy labels necessary.

  4. I experience pareidolia as well as cartocacoethes fairly often, but not particularly related to being in love. Then again, I know some who do. As in “doesn’t that crack in the sidewalk look just my boyfriend’s profile!’ (Or the street map of his neighborhood, depnding on how obsessed they are.:P )

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