I often see cases of pareidolia reported in the news, on blogs, and even here. I think remember reading in Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan that this had an evolutionary origin (i.e. if you see a familiar object and it isn't there, that doesn't cost anything in survival, as opposed to NOT seeing an object that really IS there, like a lion about to eat you). However, when I do a google search, I don't find any actual evolutionary biologists talking about the origins of pareidolia, just people repeating this anecdote from Sagan.
I will admit, my google-fu is weak, but I would like to find out if there are actual papers and studies that can confirm or deny the origin of our species towards pareidolia. A common definition of pareidolia is:
a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Common examples include seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon or the Moon rabbit, and hearing hidden messages on records played in reverse.
Does anyone have any scholarly documentation from an evolutionary biologist that speaks to the origin of pareidolia?