Blue and Black or White and Gold?

We’ll tell you what’s really happening
Blue and Black or White and Gold? We’ll tell you what’s really happening

The discussion was everywhere, both on- and offline, including amongst the BODY WORLDS Amsterdam team. Is the dress blue-black or white-gold? The entire internet was consumed by #TheDress after a blogger posted a photo to Tumblr with the innocent caption that she and her friends couldn’t decide what colour the dress in the photo was.

Why do we see this dress as blue-black or white-gold

We won’t continue the discussion or leave you in suspense. The dress is really blue with black. Now that that is cleared up we can give you a scientific explanation for why it was ever even a discussion. What is really going on? According to Adam Rogers from Wired the disparity is caused by your brains trying to correct for the sunlight, which means that everyone who sees a white-gold dress is being fooled by their own brain.

A short explanation

Light passes via the pupil, through the eyeball and onto our retina. The receptors on our retina transmit a signal to our brain that enables us to see. But the light that falls on our retinas is not only that of the object we are looking at, but also of the environment around it.

Your brain is very clever and it knows this, so without you having to think about it, it extracts the colours of the environment from the 'real' colour of the object you are looking at. And this is where everything goes wrong with that particular dress: not everyone’s brain 'colour-corrects' in the same way. Some extract the blue from the picture, as it were, so that you see white and gold, and others extract the gold from the picture, so that you see blue and black.

Here you see the digitally colour corrected versions of the dress. On the left the blue is extracted, on the right the gold. In the centre you see the original photo.

So the dress really is blue and black. You can test it for yourself by printing the original photo, cutting it out and placing it on a neutral background. The girl who originally posted the photo has confirmed that the dress really is blue and black.

Want to see more optical illusions? Watch this fun video: