Posted: 8:59PM on Sep 27, 2019 | By Pynora
Black and blue or white and gold?
Remember the dress that became viral in 2015? If you need something to jog your memory, on the 25th of February 2015, the Internet suddenly broke into two camps: the ones that firmly believed that the dress in the picture was white and gold, and the ones that could swear they saw it black and blue.
The dress was confirmed to be black and blue but many of us still see the original photograph as being white and gold. How is this possible? To get to the bottom of this, we’ll first need to find out how we ‘see’ things.
When your eyes see something, the information is broken into tiny pieces that are then fed into the visual cortex of your brain. The brain then ‘reconstructs’ the information – a process that resembles piecing a puzzle together. And, just as we tend to rely on assumptions and previous experience when working with puzzles, your brain channels what it believes to be true about the world. That’s right: your assumptions affect the way you perceive the world around you. You don’t have to see the entire body of a dog to know it’s your furry friend from down the street – all you need is a wiggling tail, and your brain fills in the blanks.
Neuroscientists believe this is, in part, what’s happening behind the curtains of the blue and black dress illusion. According to neuroscientist Pascal Wallish, the way a person perceives color depends on their assumptions of how the object is illuminated. If you, for instance, believe the dress is lit by artificial light, you are more likely to think it’s black and blue. If you feel like the dress is just shadowed in natural light, you will probably see it as gold and white. This is certainly one explanation for the blue and black dress illusion and Wallish has the data to back it up. Passionate about finally having the black and blue dress illusion explained, he surveyed 13,000 study participants who had previously seen the picture of the infamous dress.
Interestingly enough, some people seem to be more vulnerable to the black and blue dress illusion. People who preferred to go to bed early – the early risers or morning larks – were more likely to see the dress as white and gold. Those over 65, on the other hand, were more likely to think the dress was black and blue.
Wallish explains that morning people tend to have the assumption that the dress is illuminated by the sun which would cause a shadow. Shadows are blue so when we think an object is shadowed, we mentally ‘subtract’ the blue color in order to view the actual image – which would then appear to be gold and white.
What this means is that we can’t really trust what we see. Perception is not a passive process – us, taking in the environment as it is – but rather, an active one: the brain reconstructing what it believes it’s happening outside, filling in gaps of information based on assumptions.
The blue and black dress picture isn’t the only color illusion humans fall victim to. Take the colored cube illusion, for once.
The upper side (A) appears to be dramatically darker than the bottom side (B). In reality, however, they are absolutely identical in color. Both surfaces are actually grey. Don’t trust us? Put your finger at the line that separates the two sides – as soon as you block the part where the two cubes meet, the two sides will appear identical in color. Need even more proof – try any visual editor (Paint for example), and digitally compare the colors – the RGB codes will be the same.
The reason for this color illusion is again rooted in how our visual system perceives information. The brain uses the context of an image to infer about the object. The cube illusion is known as the Cornsweet Illusion (named after psychologist Tom Cornsweet) and works by contrast. The brain makes an inference about the color and shading based on the colors of the things around the main object. In the picture above, we see the cube as three-dimensional, with the light source to the upper left (hence the shadow on the ground).
Just like the grey cube, the black and blue dress picture is an illusion. There are correlating factors related to how ‘vulnerable’ someone is to the illusion but the science behind it has to do with assumptions about color. Humans are diurnal: we have evolved to see in daylight but daylight changes the colors of things. To be evolutionary successful, we have had to evolve a mechanism that compensates for the bias of daylight color.
Colors are nothing more than light bouncing off the surface of an object. When you look at something, the light enters your eye with different wavelengths – each wavelength corresponding to a certain color. If you’re looking at a ripe banana, the wavelengths hitting your retina will be in the 570-580 nanometers range. This info is then fed into your brain who decides which color light is reflected off the object and subtracts the color from the real color of the object.
It’s a fun fact that all colors we perceive are the result of the activation of one type of photoreceptor: the cones. Every one of us has around 6-7 million cones, almost all of which are situated on a 0.3-millimeter spot on the retina. There are three types of them: over a half respond to red light, a third are activated by green light, and only about 2% respond to blue light. Once the light enters the eye, it stimulates the cones to a varying degree: the resulting signal travels to the visual cortex of the brain, where the information is processed and the end result produced. As we’ve already covered, however, this inference can be affected by the assumptions the brain makes about whether the object is illuminated in daylight.
Color illusions are certainly fun and exciting, even the ones that produce a fierce discussion as the black and blue dress illusion. It’s interesting that for most, knowing that we are biased to see something in a particular way, doesn’t make us any less susceptible to the illusion.
1:38 PM - Jul 6, 2019
White and gold
I'm not sure of the actual mechanism, but I would guess that either their eyes are physically different in some way, or their brain is processing the information differently. I think I heard it might have something to do with aging.
1:31 PM - Jul 6, 2019
Blue and black
Could be the environment one was raised or the positive and negative events that happened in there life influences the way they see the world around them
2:20 PM - Jul 6, 2019
Blue and black
I believe I have heard the technical reason...I believe it has to do with your age (similar to how your age determines what tones you can hear or not).
1:34 PM - Jul 6, 2019
White and gold first, now blue and black
They might look at it at a different time. Their eyes might see, or not see, certain colors. They might be blink or have an eyesight problem.
1:19 PM - Jul 6, 2019
Blue and black
Sometimes peoples brains make them see things differently. I believe this is associated with the brain seeing wavelengths differently.
1:24 PM - Jul 6, 2019
Blue and black
The nerve receptors in peoples eyes aren't clones, the number, the location, previous damage can all make a difference. Lighting