In art history, we sometimes discover hidden images within a picture and conduct a subjective introspective analysis of the motivation behind these images. The author argues that many such highly ambiguous hidden images are better explained by the pareidolia phenomenon: the tendency to find patterns in random stimuli. The arguments brought forth by Sidney Geist and Dario Gamboni illustrate the pitfalls and controversy of subjective visual analysis and how a perceptual phenomenon can mislead our conclusions. This article proposes that this controversy can be approached by establishing pictorial intent: Did the artist deliberately paint the hidden image, or is it merely a perceptual artifact?

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