Friday, February 27, 2015

What Color Is This Dress and the Six Stages that Follow

The latest internet "thing" going around is the debate about what color this dress is. Some say it's white with gold lace while others say it's blue with black lace (or some variation in between). There's an interesting article about it on wired ( and every other site out there discussing different theories for why people see the same image differently. I think the more interesting point is about how this issue draws out some extremely strong reactions from people.

Stage 1 Denial/Disbelief: 
You see the picture one way, wonder what all the debate is about and you can't believe or imagine how there are a number of (presumably stupid) people out there who could possibly see things differently. What you see is obviously the only sane possibility. You seek out other's opinions and cling to those who agree with you, while shunning/disbelieving/marginalizing those who disagree.

Stage 2: Acceptance
Whether it's by asking people around you, mounting evidence that there are even more people who don't agree with you, or finding out that someone close to you, whose opinion you respect and trust, sees a different color dress than you do, you are forced to recognize and admit that there are people out there who aren't stupid idiots who see things differently than you do.

Stage 3: Rationalization
The previous realization (acceptance) forces you to rationalize or explain away why others are seeing different colors. Maybe you're interpreting the colors incorrectly in your head. Maybe your monitor/screen is broken. Maybe it's the lighting conditions where you're viewing the image. Maybe you're looking at a manipulated or completely different image. Maybe it's your rods and cones that are messed up. Maybe you're colorblind or don't have the artistic background that I do. I asked everyone at my art school and we all believe that it's this color and since we're from an art school we're right and you're wrong. Or replace art school with visual effects studio. Maybe there's just something wrong with your vision. 

Stage 4: Searching for Answers
For more open-minded people, it becomes increasingly clear that your initial assumptions about the other side can't adequately explain how you're both seeing different colors. It's time to reach for the science. Open up the picture in photoshop and run some pixel analysis on RGB values, try pushing the white balance/saturation of the image, cut the image into pieces, read up on color theory, optical illusions, or search the net for alternative pictures of the same dress or any other explanations that can explain why this picture is ruining your friendships.

Stage 5: Enlightenment
For a chosen few of you, you have seen the dress as both blue/black and white/gold. Maybe you saw it as gold/white one day, and the next day the same picture was blue/black. For some of you the change happens more frequently (simply scrolling down the page then back up again). Because you have seen the image both ways, you have more empathy for each side and can understand why people are so passionate and fervent. You try to explain to people how you've seen both sides of the argument but instead of getting everyone to understand and get along in love and harmony, you become alienated and distrusted because of your dissenting views. But you still can't just flip a switch and see the dress color differently. If you were able to do that then you would have achieved...

Stage 6: God mode
You can see the image as both a blue/black dress and a white/gold dress and switch it at will. Maybe you can even see the dress as all four colors at the same time.You understand why this phenomenon is happening but you won't tell anyone else because you enjoy watching people writhe in agony as they try to figure out how to put the pieces of their shattered lives and relationships back together.

The best explanation I can come up with is that this particular image is colored/lit in such a way that your brain sees it and immediately comes up with a way to interpret it (either blue/black or white/gold). Once your brain interprets the color it is very, very difficult to even comprehend how the image could ever be seen the other way. For some people, something can trigger your brain to reset how you view the image and you may see it the other way. Just like the spinning dancer optical illusion below that's either spinning counter clockwise or clockwise, depending on how you view it. Some people can see it both ways or force their brains to interpret the dancer as spinning either way.

 I think this dress image is kinda like that, except with color instead of motion/animation. It's a kind of optical illusion that we probably haven't seen before (or is appearing in a context previously unseen). Whichever camp you fall under though, remember to open your mind and accept that there could be other possibilities or explanations other than "I'm right and something's wrong with you if you don't see things my way." And also, finally, remember that it's definitely, absolutely a blue and black dress, you crazy psychopaths.

Pretty convincing evidence that the dress in real life is black/blue:

First the original poster took this picture of herself in the dress

Second the dress makers don't sell a white/gold version currently, although they plan to if demand is high enough. Here's the link with the interview at the bottom of the page:

Here's the website with the original dress (no gold version):

1 comment:

  1. For some reason I find it easy to God Mode the ballerina, but utterly impossible to properly see black/blue in the unedited dress pic. Must have something to do with cones versus rods. Fascinating stuff.