Walking into work on Saturday, morning, Feb. 28, my coworkers and I were extremely tired from our Friday nights. However, the second I brought up “the dress,” a debate ensued.
Students Abigail Gunther, DeAnna Mancini and Olivia Hanlon immediately started arguing with screams of “No, it’s white and gold” and “Why can I only see blue and black?”
If you haven’t heard, a picture of a dress went viral within a few hours on Thursday, Feb. 26. People are arguing whether the dress is blue and black or white and gold.
Even celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Zendaya have commented with their thoughts on social media.
Gunther, a sophomore psychology major, was very frustrated with the debacle.
“I saw white and gold,” said Gunther. “I saw an article that said it depends on what environment you’re looking at it in and it depends on the screen.”
Not only are students curious why this is happening, but professors of the psychology department agree that the science of it is interesting.
“I haven’t read much yet from the people who study color vision, but the phenomenon of the color-changing dress reminds me of some color anomalies that have been known for years,” said Dr. Gregory Burton, a professor of psychology who focuses on perception, particularly haptic (active touch). “Our perception of color is mostly based on the wavelength of visible light but many other factors affect the quality of light reaching an eye.”
According to Dr. Burton, the visual system of the brain generally uses much more than the wavelengths from one spot to produce the color that is perceived and the surrounding colors are very important.
“I saw white and gold,” said Joey Puleo, a junior political science major. “I’m trying to figure this out. Someone told me that it was related to the cornea in your eye and that people perceive it differently.”
Based on student reactions and reactions online, the people who see white and gold can usually trick their eyes into seeing blue and black, but the people who see blue and black rarely see white and gold as well. Many of those who see blue and black try very hard to see white and gold, but haven’t been able to.
“In my family, my son could see the black and blue, but my wife and daughter and I could only see the gold and white,” said Dr. Burton. “Color vision has a lot of ‘backups’ and sometimes the variations in how we perceive colors can only be shown under special circumstances.”
Dr. Burton also said that people may be particularly fascinated with this picture because we are so acclimated to Photoshop and airbrushing that control our impressions, that it really stands out when we’re confronted with an aspect of perception that we can’t control.
Rebecca White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.