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Optical illusion – the Blue and Black Dress (or the white and gold dress?)

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You may find this surprising but to some crazy people, the dress above appears to be black and blue. To other, more rational, sane people, the dress appears to be white and gold. The intense debate over the color of the White and Gold Dress has taken the Internet by storm as families and friends argue over the true color of this unusual dress. Actually, the dress itself is not the trick – it’s the lighting.

Geek Slop has talked about sight and color before, how the light reflects off the object you “see”, enters the eye through the lens, and hits the retina in the back of the eye causing signals to be sent to the visual cortex in the brain. Your mind then interprets the color by analyzing the wavelengths of the light (each color has a different wavelength). It’s a pretty complicated process and apparently some people with less-developed brains have a hard time seeing the true colors in the overexposed photo of the White and Gold dress.

The difficulty arises from the lighting in the picture (it was taken with a cellphone and is a bit tricky). You may not know it, but your brain first adjusts for lighting differences before you actually “see” something. The brain figures out what color the light is that is bouncing off the object and then subtracts that color from the “real” color of the object. This is necessary because we’ve evolved to account for the difference in the wavelength of natural light throughout the day (it’s pinkish at dawn, bright white during the day, and reddish in the evening). Apparently, some people that are less evolved cannot see the true colors of White and Gold dress.

For those people with less evolved peepers (the ones that cannot see the true colors in the White and Gold Dress), their eyes are unable to correctly discount the influence (or lack thereof) of the daylight wavelengths. According to one scientist, people interpret the color of the dress differently based on how their mind processes the ambient lighting in the photo:

“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.”

Jay Neitz, of the University of Washington told Wired magazine that this is not as unusual as people think. In fact, it’s probably happened to us many times before and we just never noticed it. Still, Neitz has been studying individual differences in color for 30 years and says the inability of some people to see the true color of the White and Gold dress is one of the biggest individual differences he’s ever seen.

So what is the true color of the dress? A correctly lighted photograph reveals the true color of the dress is, uh… Blue and Black.

Optical illusion – the blue and black dress (or the white and gold dress?)
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