What color is this?

For anybody that was on social media a couple years ago, we all remember this dress and the controversy associated with it. How it had everybody discussing if the dress was blue and black or white and gold. Whenever I asked someone this,if the person said white and gold – I would ask “How do they see those colors?” Because I always saw and still see black and blue. But now that I have started to learn about perception and the visual system, I understand more why people saw/see different colors.

Perception is a psychological process that involves organization and that interpretation of senses. But to put in simpler terms – it is the ability to be aware of something through the senses. For this particular picture, it is all about how our brain processes the light in the picture. We sense the light, just not the reality of the light. But the way the eyes process the light- it could seem lighter or darker than what the image is. Where the light hits the eye is how the light would appear to look. If the light hits the center of the eye – the light would appear lighter than what it actually is. And this is the same for the surround of the eye, but the light would appear darker. 

It also happens in this picture too. With this picture, the shades of grey seem different but they are really the same shade. The light just makes your eyes perceive the colors different than what they actually are.


7 thoughts on “What color is this?

  1. iloaiza

    Yes, I do remember this! I also found it really strange that people were seeing colors other than blue and black (which is what I see when I look at this photo). I love how we can relate real-life examples to cognitive psychology! A thought that I had was what other color variations do people who are color blind see?

  2. rpauley

    I also see blue and black and was always really confused about how someone could see anything other than those colors. I think that the optical illusion that our perception of light in a photo has is really crazy and interesting. It’s fun to have these viral debates, but it’s also really cool to see the science and psychology that explains the controversy! I do wonder if the way we see the light in these photos has other implications, like if seeing it one way would indicate better eyes or any visual limitations. I think it would be really interesting if the way we see these viral examples on sociak media had any legitimate information about our physical abilities, or if it just emphasizes our varying differences.

  3. sdejong

    I think it is so crazy how one person may see black and blue (which I see), and others will see white and gold. When this dress went viral, I thought it was a joke because I just could not wrap my brain around how others saw something completely different than what I saw. I still think it is crazy but learning in psych class about why this may happen helps me make more sense of it, but I still think it is crazy.

  4. econvers

    At first, I always saw yellow and gold, but when I looked at the darker parts of the dress, I saw black and blue, and from that point on, I was able to see both colors. I remember getting into so many arguments about the colors of this dress, because I quickly discovered that the dress was actually black and blue, but I could see both sides and often got frustrated that people refused to listen to reason and trusted their eyes instead, when in reality, their perception was lying to them.

  5. rgallahan

    Wow throw back! I can remember always seeing black and blue. There was one time I saw white and gold but I never have since. Usually once I see both, I can interchange, but with this I can’t. I was able to interchange between the Yanny and Laurel trend but not this. It’s crazy to see how popular a cognitive psychology phenomenon could get so popular and some people get so angry and defensive. I think was a really good choice to demonstrate visual perception!!

  6. slevendo

    Great connection! I still see white and gold till this day but by changing the lighting on my computer or in a room, I can also see black and blue. I would be interested on how priming could be a factor in determining what color the dress is because some people may want to see white/gold because everyone else does or even with black and blue.

  7. sbalenger

    I understand the scientific reasoning, but I still see gold and white just as I did how ever many years ago. I also see different shades of gray rather than the same shade. I changed the brightness on my laptop, the lighting in the room, changed rooms, and I still see gold and white and different shades of gray. I just do not understand.

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