The mysterious color dress: Gold & White vs. Black & Blue


It all started on tumblr when a photo of this dress was posted, it was picked up by Buzzfeed, and the Internet freaked out, as it usually does.

Original photo uploaded onto Tumblr. Do you see black and blue or gold and white?

Of course a wild goose chase ensued and eventually it was found out that the original wearer of the dress purchased it as the following:

The actual dress that was in the photo above

Does that blow anyone else’s mind out there? I spent 10 minutes debating this with my husband (clearly it looks white and gold in the above photo but my hubby insists it’s black and blue), and then another 20 minutes researching it online. Apparently it all comes down to how our eyes and brains are wired and how we perceive light. We evolved to see things in different shades of daylight, whether it’s the orange and red shades of sunrise or the bright white light at midday. How do we keep separate the colors of daylight illuminating objects and the actual colors of things we see? Our brains have evolved to be able to interpret things we see in a way that subtracts the color of the light illuminating it, so that we only see the color of the actual object itself, reflecting off of it. Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist at Wellesley, told 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.”

So basically, you’re either seeing a dimly lit but highly reflective white and gold dress or a brightly lit but poorly reflective black and blue dress. It’s all perspective in how much you think it is reflecting vs. illuminating light.

I still for the life of me can’t see the blue and black in the original tumblr photo but this Japanese cartoon came closest to having me convince myself that I could see it both ways.

A. How the blue and black viewers see the dress B. How the white and gold viewers see the dress This is how you can get to both conclusions with the same picture!

What do you see? Black and blue or white and gold? At the end of the day, science is pretty damn cool. 

2 Comments on The mysterious color dress: Gold & White vs. Black & Blue

    • Joyce
      March 3, 2015 at 7:34 pm (3 years ago)

      Coco, I still see it as gold & white! 😛


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