What Color IS THAT Dress? The Tumblr Dress That Created A Stir

Who would have thought that a global debate would ensue over the colors of a dress posted on Tumblr? Nevertheless, that is precisely what occurred last week. Whether you are in the white and gold camp (70% of people are), or in the blue and black camp, you are subject to variables such as the distribution of rods and cones in your eyes, the lighting in the room, and the screen you are viewing the dress from.

Some scientists have surmised that people who see the dress as white and gold are more light sensitive and have diminished vision in dimly lit rooms, while the blue and black group have more active cones in the retina. This may be true but hasn’t been completely proven. Lighting also plays a factor, and since darker eyes have more melanin pigment than lighter colored irises, less light enters the eye.

I first viewed THE DRESS after sitting in my living room for four hours, near my sliding glass door, staring at a computer screen. The environment I was in, combined with ocular fatigue, altered my perception of the dress, and I could only see it as white and gold. I kept reading about how others could make the colors flip from one combination to the other, but I wasn’t able to do it. Hell, I didn’t pick up anything more than a bluish hue to the white which I saw in the dress.

Then I encountered the image again a day later, after giving my eyes a break from staring at computer and phone screens, and lo and behold, the dress was blue and black. Just like that. I looked at it several more times over the course of an hour to be sure. Yes, it was still blue and black. The following morning, my brain switched over and saw the dress as white and gold. What the hell?

The bluish tint in the photo can be interpreted by some people as shadows, which the brain then compensates for by interpreting the blue of the dress as a bluish-tinged white and the black as gold. One way to correct this is to view the photo of the dress under artificial yellow-tinted lighting. What it all boils down to, though, is that it is all about perception, and that perception is always relative. Two people can look at the same thing and interpret it completely differently. Does it mean that one person is wrong and the other person is right?

One thing that is certain is that the manufacturer of the dress will make a fortune selling this particular design now that a global internet buzz has been created. I am willing to bet that a few people will actually wear Halloween costumes spoofing the color debate as well. Ah, if only I had stock in that company!

I enjoyed reading this description of color constancy which explains why most people see the dress as white and gold:


The Dress

Our brains filter and compensate constantly to process an endless influx of sensory stimuli. Perhaps the world is more aware of that fact now that a dress has challenged our perceptions!