Perhaps the two biggest questions circulating online today are: “What color is this dress?” or “Is this dress blue and black or white gold?” The answer seems to vary widely from person to person and, in many cases, from one glance to the next.
In any case, the color of the dress is clearly the hot topic, not only online, but is actually the lead story for many television news outlets this morning. The dress in question is indeed a royal blue with black lace fringe and stripes.
What color is this dress when you look at it?
But for many, their impression of the dress changes mysteriously. Many see the image of this dress as one being white in color with gold trim and stripes. How can it be that people see the dress differently, and even that for some, the color of the dress seems to change each time they look at it?
For the answer, we turn to science. The answer is deceptively simple and has a lot to do with how our eyes see.
Different wavelengths of light are picked up and interpreted by the cells of the eye as corresponding to different colors. This system generally works perfectly and we all generally see colors the same.
The image of the dress with the question of color, appears to have found the limits of that perception based on how the picture of the dress is illuminated.
According to a report from WIRED, “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,” says Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist who studies color and vision at Wellesley College. “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.”