Blue-Black Or White-Gold? What Color Is The Damn Dress!

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The retailer of the dress confirmed that the real color of the ‘Lace Bodycon Dress’ was actually blue and black. So, although the dress is blue and black, your unconscious overthinking makes you see it as white and gold.

The retailer of the dress confirmed that the real color of the ‘Lace Bodycon Dress’ was actually blue and black. So, although the dress is blue and black, your unconscious overthinking makes you see it as white and gold.

Have you ever wondered whether your idea of the color red is the same as other people’s perception of the color red? You may be entirely wrong if you believe that everyone sees the same thing. Dressgate#2015 is undeniable evidence for your fallacy. Yes, I’m talking about the infamous yet innocuous striped dress that took the internet by storm when its picture was posted in February 2015, sparking a raging debate among the endless Internet population regarding the color combination of the dress.

Some perceived it as blue-black, while others saw it as gold and white, and a small margin of people even saw it as brown and blue.

Color of Dress

The debate was so intense that some anxious souls proclaimed that they were colorblind due to their inability to see what the majority perceived as blue and black. Lo and behold, the dress was actually blue and black! A question arises from all of this… why did different people see different colors on the same dress? Let’s turn to vision science for answers.

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Our Brain On ‘The Dress’

Researchers and scientists who study the visual system were equally perplexed by a rare color illusion. While extensive studies of ambiguous figure illusions, such as the face/vase or duck/rabbit illusions, have helped scientists understand the mechanisms and principles of human visual perception, this particular color phenomenon is unique.

Also Read: Why Do Clothes Appear Darker When They Get Wet?

Why Different People Saw Different Colors In The Dress?

The dress illusion presented a unique opportunity because the illusion was related to color. Color refers to the wavelength or frequency light is reflected off a surface. However, the dress reflected the same amount of light for everyone, so it was clear that the difference in how people perceived its color arose later, once an individual’s brain began processing the wavelengths.

Color Blind Meme

Scientists believe that people’s familiarity with the amount of light in a given environment may guide their judgments about color. Therefore, people frequently exposed to daylight are more likely to adjust their judgments about a wavelength by considering how daylight will interact with the wavelength. This could explain why some people perceive the dress as gold and white.

In contrast, those more frequently exposed to artificial or incandescent light do not make these mental adjustments and perceive the dress’s color as it is – blue and black.

The square at the center and square at the top right are the same shade but we judge wrong as we expect the pillar's shadow to make it appear darker.
The square at the center and the square at the top right are the same shade, but we judge wrong, as we expect the pillar’s shadow to make it appear darker.

A neuroimaging study has identified differences in the brain regions activated by individuals who perceive the dress as either gold-white or blue-black. The study found that individuals who perceive the dress as gold-white exhibit more significant brain activity in the frontal and parietal regions, which indicates that perceiving the dress as gold-white requires more cognitive effort.

This additional activity may be due to the influence of daylight, which can lead to inaccurate color perception.

Also Read: Is Color A Property Of Matter Or Generated In The Brain?

Are Blue/Black And White/Gold Brains Different?

No! Thus far, research suggests that the difference arises because you use your brain differently. The Dress illusion reminds us of the fallacies inherent in our visual sense and the existence of individual differences in our abilities of perception. So, although the dress is blue and black, your unconscious overthinking makes you see it as white and gold.

The next time you want to insist that you’re right and win a fight over the shade of color on a wall, dress, or car…check whether or not you’re analyzing things properly before you waste your time on an endless argument!

Last Updated By: Ashish Tiwari

References (click to expand)
  1. Rabin, J., Houser, B., Talbert, C., & Patel, R. (2016, August 31). Blue-Black or White-Gold? Early Stage Processing and the Color of 'The Dress'. (J. A. Coles, Ed.), Plos One. Public Library of Science (PLoS).
  2. Melgosa, M., Gómez‐Robledo, L., Isabel Suero, M., & Fairchild, M. D. (2015, May 25). What can we learn from a dress with ambiguous colors?. Color Research & Application. Wiley.
  3. Karlsson, B. S. A., & Allwood, C. M. (2016, November 23). What Is the Correct Answer about The Dress’ Colors? Investigating the Relation between Optimism, Previous Experience, and Answerability. Frontiers in Psychology. Frontiers Media SA.
About the Author

Rujuta has a MA in Counseling Psychology and MSc in Cognitive Science. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Cognitive Science from IIT Kanpur in India. Her primary area of interest being human memory and learning, she is also interested in the neuroscience of cognitive processes. She also identifies herself as a bibliophile and a harry potter fanatic.

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