Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Mind

What Color Is This Dress? Science Answers

D-briefBy Lisa RaffenspergerFebruary 27, 2015 9:28 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

It's Friday on the Internet, and we're all abuzz with the latest meme  but, happily, for once it's a meme with some fascinating science behind it. The question at hand, if you haven't been asked it already, is what color is this dress, below? The results are remarkably divided. An informal Buzzfeed poll indicates that about 75 percent of people perceive it to be white and gold.

dress.jpg

But, as the video above explains, other people see it as black and blue  which are indeed its true colors. What's going on? Well it appears that this snapshot hits a sweet spot of ambiguity, allowing our brains' color processing judgment calls to be laid bare. It depends, essentially, on whether you perceive the dress's lighting to be an overexposed, yellow light (which would lead you to conclude the dress is blue) or a bluish light perhaps cast by sunlight shining through a window (which would lead you to see white). It's a judgment call our brains make all the time, but rarely are we able to compare those judgments to other people so starkly. "I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen," Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, told Wired. It's just one example of how weird things happen to our color perception in colored light. "I used to own a red Volkswagen," Neitz told Vice. "I was out and it was dark and I was getting into my car. Someone next to me had just gotten into their car and put on their brake lights. When they did that, my car was illuminated just with the brake lights—and my car looked white!" So, what color do you see? And can you flip your perception? Tell us in the comments!

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In