The Interweb, and its technicolored dream-dress

Riley Sproul Ideas, Psychology, Science, Uncategorized 1 Comment

It’s blue and black! It’s white and gold! Or in my case, it’s blue and gold. As many have seen this infamous dress, and come to fisticuffs over it, I feel I have an interesting perspective I’d like to share.


So, you have probably seen this picture of The Dress on a hanger, the light and context is such that its color can be difficult to determine and while many give differing answers, some say it switches. The truth you ask? In actuality, the dress is blue and black.

This meme is an excellent example of how fallible our eyes and brains are! As Beau Lotto explains here our eyes do not simply perceive the wavelengths of light that hit the retina… we change what we perceive based on context. Several of his illusions show the same thing that The Dress does, we choose what we see based on what we expect, given previous experience.

As some of you may know, I am red-green color blind. For those technically inclined I am a Protanope with the OPN1MW gene mutation. Simply put, this means that I am unable to see some colors, and the colors I do see are often not what you see. For example here I see nothing but randomly colored dots, and you see (if Ray and Steve can be trusted) a boat of some kind. I learned this about myself when I was in the second grade, and the strange sense of “what is real” that many people feel when viewing The Dress, I felt for some time myself, at that age. I point to my colorblindness as the source of my skeptical nature and have come to the conclusion that it’s a psychological strength as much as it might be a physical weakness.

I tell you all that because it shaped how I view The Dress and my reaction to the rapid spread of the meme. I saw/see blue, where some saw/see white. Although I’m perfectly comfortable forcing myself to see it as white too. And I saw/see gold where some saw/see black, but again no biggie I can see black too. I’ve grown accustomed to a way of accepting two conclusions as equally valid, a kind of double-think, when it comes to color. So when people got all in a huff about which is colors are which, I shrugged. This phenomenon takes place, for me, at every stoplight controlled intersection. But it kept catching on! In the course of 2 hours I saw 17 separate conversations about this dress, some rather heated. I’m unsure how to verify the following hypothesis but to me it seems valid: No one (or only a few) want/like to question a reality they feel certain about. For me, color is no biggie, I can take it or leave it. But my sense of propriocepation… touch that and I’ll be swearing up a storm in no time.

However, I suggest we use this meme as a learning tool. Your eyes and brain are easily tricked. As are all of your senses, your memory, and even your ability to determine realty from a dream; all easily fooled. This often prompts the questions, is there an objective reality? And scientifically speaking, yes. There are objective measuring tools and rules of logic that cannot be fooled so easily. And when they are fooled, they are self correcting. This method of thinking, of “objectively interrogating the universe”, is called science or sometimes skepticism. And I welcome you to it.

So in conclusion, The Dress is, when viewed by the human eye, both (or either, or neither) colors schemes. But when viewed objectively, without any input other than the wavelengths expressed, it is blue and black.



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Riley Sproul has a Bachelors in Biology, with a concentration in PreMed, and a Chemistry Minor, from the University of Toledo. His goal is to obtain a Ph.D. in Neurobiology with in the next 4-5 years. His interests include sci-fi, PC-gaming, playing guitar, and a variety of other hobbies.
The Interweb, and its technicolored dream-dress was last modified: February 27th, 2015 by Riley Sproul