Health and Science

Do You See What I See?


On Thursday, February 26th a question was raised that split the Internet in half. Is the dress blue and black or white and gold? This “dress”, found in a photograph posted on Tumblr, prompted an Internet discussion. Some people commented they saw white and gold, while others replied they saw black and blue. The dispute quickly spread to Twitter that night where Twitter-users split onto two sides: #teamblueandblack and #teamwhiteandgold. However, scientists quickly explained that both teams were right and that the colors a person perceives are dependent on the situation a person is in.

One factor involved in color perception is the amount of light in the room. In a dark shadow some may see black and blue. On the other hand, people in a room with bright light might see white and gold, which washes out the black and blue colors. But then how can two people standing side-by-side see different colors?

Different people might pick up on different visual cues in the image, which has the ability to alter the way they interpret and name the colors. If the brain believes the dress is being washed out, the brain may remove the blue cast and view the dress as being white and gold. If the brain believes the dress is being cast by a shadow, the brain may view the dress as a darker blue and black. Essentially, the brain will choose a side.

The color component of the dress also has an influence on the color perception. The news website, Wired, Photoshoped the image to try and uncover the color of the dress. ` This meant that white is blue, and the gold was black. When the process is reversed, balancing to the darkest pixel in the image, the dress pops up in blue and black. This means that without white balance, as in the case of the phenomenon, the colors are on the fence and the brain is deceived.

The fight over the dress exceeds the interests of just social media. It’s about fundamental biology and the way human eyes and brains have evolved to see color in a sunlit world. Although the majority of people across the country saw the colors white and gold, the actual color of the dress is blue and black.