Is The Dress Blue or White? Why The Internet Just Lost Its Mind

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Is The Dress Blue or White? Why The Internet Just Lost Its Mind

Why does this dress look white one moment, and blue the next? Your friends aren't crazy - there's some legitimately cool visual science happening behind the scenes.

We like to think our eyes can be trusted above all else, even when science shows they are confused by simple visual tricks. But if you were spending time on social media last night, you know that "the dress" sowed confusion and madness on a scale even the most rational individuals couldn't process. In case you missed the chaos (you lucky soul), it all started with a picture of a blue and black dress... Or was it white and gold? That's the problem: The exact same picture shows different colors depending on the viewer - even if two people are looking at the exact same screen.

First of all, you're not losing your mind and your friends aren't trying to trick you - it really is possible to see two different colors here. Second, the dress is actually blue and black, no matter how insistently your eyes say otherwise.

So what's happening? Well, it's an incredibly specific flaw in the way our eyes interpret color. We see color when light hits the retina, setting off neural connections in the visual cortex before interpreting it as an image. The problem is that your brain doesn't actually want to see everything - it only wants to see light reflecting off objects, not the illuminating light that surround us at all times. To get around the problem, the brain filters the color of illuminating light hitting your retina so you only see the color of objects. This is why everything around you doesn't look like an insane white mess after you switch on a lightbulb.

But this picture - or more specifically, the background illumination - breaks the context for how our brain processes these colors. "What's happening here is your visual system is looking at this thing, and you're trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis," Wellesley College neuroscientist Bevil Conway told Wired. "So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black."

If you were to photoshop the picture to have a dark background - or printed it off and cut out a sample - you'd have a better context for what the actual dress looks like. But as it stands, our visual perceptions vary greatly based on our personal context - to the point that the dress might change color as we look at it. Conway even suggested people who see white prefer the daylight illumination context, while blue favors nighttime light. "I bet night owls are more likely to see it as blue-black," he continued.

It's still an incredibly unique case - one that will probably become more common now that we've discovered the trick. But in the meantime, we can remember Feb 26 2015 as the day the internet completely lost its mind over a dress. Don't forget to tell your grandchildren where you were during this historic event.

I mean, it's not like anything important was happening.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said the dress was blue and gold, which was a misreading of one of the quotes from our source. The dress is actually blue and black and the story has been updated. We blame the llamas.

Source: Wired

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It's things like this happening concurrently with people going ape over two llamas on the loose on the same day that makes me question this whole 'existence' thing we've got going on.

"So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black."

So what am I doing when I see blue and gold?

It's a fun little eye experiment, but did people seriously lose their shit over this?

Edit: For anybody who wants to test they're eyes to see how well they see color and in what areas they may be lacking. The Online Color Challenge is a fun thing to do when you're bored.

Eclipse Dragon:

"So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black."

So what am I doing when I see blue and gold?

Blue and gold are the correct dress colors. You are the chosen one.

soren7550:
It's things like this happening concurrently with people going ape over two llamas on the loose on the same day that makes me question this whole 'existence' thing we've got going on.

This is why I just stay in my own little world and either read, play games or paint my necron models.

I can't find the words to describe my contempt for the people wasting their time on this stuff.

I don't care what colour the dress actually is, but that picture is blue and gold.

Fanghawk:

Eclipse Dragon:

"So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black."

So what am I doing when I see blue and gold?

Blue and gold are the correct dress colors. You are the chosen one.

All those years of art school payed off. It's a shame they're also making me nearsighted.
Wonderful color vision, but only for as long as I actually have vision.

I'm disappointed. All these people who seem to be having it change colour every time they look at it, and for me it's staying at a definite blue and dark gold. I'm having difficulty even imagining seeing that as white.
(I mean, the background's clearly white, and the dress isn't the same colour as that, so it can't be white. How can you see it as white?!)

Though the xkcd comic (http://xkcd.com/1492/) provided me with a good idea of what it's probably like...

It's white and gold, you're all lying dirtbags.

I think the dress is blue and gold. Don't think that helps at all or anything.

I don't get it. I saw Blue and gold instantly, showed it to my roommate, he say blue/gold and then his girlfriend also saw blue/gold(Although to be fair she said either gold or metallic yellow)
You guys sure this isn't just a taco news that got you? That the joke is there is no joke? That it's just a picture of a dress and someone is telling you it changes colors.

I saw this on television at my dad's house and it was clearly gold and white. On my TV, which is mirroring my monitor, it is blue and brown/gold. On my monitor, I get a muddy blue and gold.

Science nothing, this is obviously an enchantment of some sort.

You sure someone hasn't just invented a new jpeg format that's able to alter its colors when you're not looking?

You know, a bit like .gif, but more subtle.

I think the images that we're shown differ. This one looks blue with darker gold/tan/black. The one I was shown this morning looked absolutely white and gold. I think some people are seeing a white-balanced version of this picture:

image

The one I was shown first was the one on the far left. That still looks mostly white (but light blue) and gold while the middle one is clearly blue and black (or dark gold like it appears around the neck).

IceForce:
You sure someone hasn't just invented a new jpeg format that's able to alter its colors when you're not looking?

You know, a bit like .gif, but more subtle.

After about two hours of study and concentration (what has my life degenerated to), I am finally able to "flip the switch" that lets me see one color scheme or the other without moving the picture offscreen.

So nope... it's a hell of an optical illusion.

Lightknight:
I think the images that we're shown differ. This one looks blue with darker gold/tan/black. The one I was shown this morning looked absolutely white and gold. I think some people are seeing a white-balanced version of this picture:

image

The one I was shown first was the one on the far left. That still looks mostly white (but light blue) and gold while the middle one is clearly blue and black (or dark gold like it appears around the neck).

No, you weren't. I thought that too, but then I went and compared the three pics to the pic that was first sent around, and it really is the one in the middle.

And more than half the Brovengers saw the middle picture as white and gold, myself included. xD

Try covering the left and right pictures alternately with your hand, and the middle dress changes colors.

Lightknight:
I think the images that we're shown differ. This one looks blue with darker gold/tan/black. The one I was shown this morning looked absolutely white and gold. I think some people are seeing a white-balanced version of this picture:

image

The one I was shown first was the one on the far left. That still looks mostly white (but light blue) and gold while the middle one is clearly blue and black (or dark gold like it appears around the neck).

Some altered images have been popping up to highlight the difference, but there's definitely an optical illusion happening here.

Last night my wife and I were almost banging heads because we saw completely different colors from the exact same image. I already knew it about it from earlier in the day, but she had to confront the reality that either her eyes were lying to her, or her husband was.

lacktheknack:

IceForce:
You sure someone hasn't just invented a new jpeg format that's able to alter its colors when you're not looking?

You know, a bit like .gif, but more subtle.

After about two hours of study and concentration (what has my life degenerated to), I am finally able to "flip the switch" that lets me see one color scheme or the other without moving the picture offscreen.

Thems legit superpowers there, bro. You need a name and a costume. The nemesis will follow.

Teoes:

lacktheknack:

IceForce:
You sure someone hasn't just invented a new jpeg format that's able to alter its colors when you're not looking?

You know, a bit like .gif, but more subtle.

After about two hours of study and concentration (what has my life degenerated to), I am finally able to "flip the switch" that lets me see one color scheme or the other without moving the picture offscreen.

Thems legit superpowers there, bro. You need a name and a costume. The nemesis will follow.

And what the heck is my nemesis going to do?

Make me wear dresses of indeterminate color?

It looks bluer on my phone than it does on my PC. So the screen you view it on can affect your perception as well.

I'm still not convinced this isn't some sort of SCP Foundation artifact that somehow escaped containment. Its power is that it creates discord among those who look at it, that's why the internet blew up like it did (not like it needs much help).

Still, I saw it change color in front of my very eyes from white/gold to the apparently correct blue/black the first time I saw it. See you at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, fellow blue dressers.

Aerotrain:
I'm still not convinced this isn't some sort of SCP Foundation artifact that somehow escaped containment. It's power is that it creates discord among those who look at it, that's why the internet blew up like it did (not like it needs much help).

Still, I saw it change color in front of my very eyes from white/gold to the apparently correct blue/black the first time I saw it. See you at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, fellow blue dressers.

To be fair, it's better than something worse escaping containment - like whatever the heck is down that damn staircase.

I'm still waiting to see it appear white. I've put it into paint and changed the background colour to dark blue and black - still, the dress appears blue. I'm beginning to wonder if this isn't some sort of government conspiracy to convince me to waste time - which begs the question of what is it that they don't want me working on...

The_Darkness:
To be fair, it's better than something worse escaping containment - like whatever the heck is down that damn staircase.

At the very bottom of the staircase there is only a twisted creature, a horrible patchwork of muscle and bones, and it ceaselessly shouts: WHITE...AND...GOLD!

Damn you, eyes! You had one job!

Captcha: pandora's box ...please, somebody verify Captcha's self-awareness. This is getting too creepy.

Well I can confirm that different people see different colors. I myself see blue and black. My friend sees white and gold. We kept looking at eachother in a "you're not kidding, right?" kind of way.

soren7550:
It's things like this happening concurrently with people going ape over two llamas on the loose on the same day that makes me question this whole 'existence' thing we've got going on.

Moral of the story: Don't take pictures with a phone's crappy camera with crappy lighting conditions or you'll cause the internet to eat its own face.

CaitSeith:

soren7550:
It's things like this happening concurrently with people going ape over two llamas on the loose on the same day that makes me question this whole 'existence' thing we've got going on.

Okay. One internet. You win it. It's all yours. Have a cookie too.

Genuinely, that's the first time I've laughed out loud at something online in a LONG time :)

Huh. Guess I didn't "fall for it" or whatever. It looked blue and black from the start to me. I can only assume the people who thought it was white and gold got that impression from the background and lighting throwing them off. Weird thing to go viral.

EDIT:

circularlogic88:
...
image

Wow, what pop-psy nonsense.

Can't say that I am able to notice anything white. Blue and Black on the picture for me - but I am aware that gold can look black under some circumstances (how the light shines on it and how it reflects it, mostly). Not knowing it is gold, I would have gone with black, but if someone told me it would be gold, I would say what I say now: "Yeah, could be. Probably is. Still looks more black to me right now."

''The group pressure implied by the expressed opinion of other people can lead to modification and distortion effectively making you see almost anything.'' -Solomon Asch

I don't get it. I don't see white -at all-, ever. I can see how the black can be seen as yellow given the material might be reflecting some light in an odd way. But the other color is all blue, all the time.

For me the 3 of them are blue with black trim, it just the tint that vary. Actually can't see wtf some people see gold, other then mistaking light reflection for the actual color of the dress, as the pictures are unusually saturated.

The light blue one I can understand some people not seeing the blue, as blue is usually the hardest color to see for most, thus why light and dark tint of blue can easily be mistaken for white and black by a lot of people.

Um author of post? The designer says the dress is blue and black, and is wearing the dress while she says so. Sooooo totally not blue and gold, as you *promise* in the article (totally triggered by inaccurate information)

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