Science behind the ‘Dress Controversy’ 2015 that broke the Internet!

Scroll down and then scroll up? What do you see? Trust me when i say that you will see the dress change colour right in front of you! The world is divided.. Its causing fights, wars, divorces. but like all things, there’s science behind this dress controversy too.


[one_half last=”no”]Unknown[/one_half] There are several memes, theories floating the internet, like you must be delusional, depressed, crazy and what not. Despite that, the truth is that people do see the dress differently. The reason behind this difference is the way our retina processes light and transmits to our brain to process the visual information. All humans are different! Specially when the wavelengths of light we encounter is on the edge of two different colors. When you increase the brightness/contrast on the image, it will more obviously look white and gold. Decrease the contrast, it will more obviously look blue and black.

When we see something, Light reflects off that object and enters the eye through the eye lens. The light hits the retina in the back of the eye where pigments fire up neural connections to the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes those signals into an image. Critically, though, that first burst of light is made of whatever wavelengths are illuminating the world, reflecting off whatever you’re looking at. Without you having to worry about it, your brain figures out what color light is bouncing off the thing your eyes are looking at, and essentially subtracts that color from the “real” color of the object. “Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance,” 

Usually this system works just fine and people do see the same colour. This photo, though, hits some kind of perceptual boundary. That might be because of how people are wired. Human beings evolved to see in daylight, but daylight changes color. That chromatic axis varies from the pinkish red of dawn, up through the blue-white of noontime, and then back down to reddish twilight. “What’s happening here is your visual system is looking at this thing, and you’re trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis,” says Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist who studies color and vision at Wellesley College. “So 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.”



In the image as presented on, say, BuzzFeed, Photoshop tells us that the places some people see as blue do indeed track as blue. But…that probably has more to do with the background than the actual color. “Look at your RGB values. R 93, G 76, B 50. If you just looked at those numbers and tried to predict what color that was, what would you say?” Conway asks.

So…kind of orange-y?

“Right,” says Conway. “But you’re doing this very bad trick, which is projecting those patches on a white background. Show that same patch on a neutral black background and I bet it would appear orange.” He ran it through Photoshop, too, and now figures that the dress is actually blue and orange.

The point is, your brain tries to interpolate a kind of color context for the image, and then spits out an answer for the color of the dress. Even Neitz, with his weird white-and-gold thing, admits that the dress is probably blue. “I actually printed the picture out,” he says. “Then I cut a little piece out and looked at it, and completely out of context it’s about halfway in between, not this dark blue color. My brain attributes the blue to the illuminant. Other people attribute it to the dress.”

So when context varies, so will people’s visual perception. “Most people will see the blue on the white background as blue,” Conway says. “But on the black background some might see it as white.”


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