Did They Just Say “Satan?!” Um, No

I don’t get the obsession people have with backmasking (supposed “hidden” subliminal messages within many popular songs). The human brain is wired to find patterns. You can find the words “Satan,” “demon” and maybe even “donut” in a common nursery rhyme played backwards if you’re told what to look for.

It’s called Pareidolia and it happens when people find a pattern or meaning where one does not exist. This is why people “report” having seen the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, a face on the surface of Mars and supernatural orbs and lights in poorly-developed photographs.

So, find any song you want and somehow find the song backwards. What one person hears as, say, “Satan,” another hears as gibberish. Then, when you know what to look for (like if the lyrics for the backwards track are on the screen), sure enough, you hear an “evil” message. It’s the same concept with constellations; there aren’t actually figures in the sky. The stars in the cosmos are randomly scattered. It’s humans who “find” shapes and see things that really aren’t there. It’s what we do

And if an artist has something to say or a statement to make, he or she is going to make it, not hide it in a song where it can only be discovered when played backwards.

Michael Shermer discussed the phenomenon at the 2006 TED Conference.