Brain breakage
February 26, 2015 5:06 PM   Subscribe

What color is this dress? is a really strange phenomena currently seen taking over twitter, as people see a blue dress with black lace while others insist it is white with gold. So far, no one can tell why exactly it is happening, other than it is baffling for both sides.
posted by mathowie (949 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
White and gold, dammit.
posted by adrianhon at 5:07 PM on February 26, 2015 [30 favorites]


adrian, you are a witch.
posted by mathowie at 5:07 PM on February 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


there's a trainwreck of an Ask.Me on this very pressing issue, right now!
posted by crush-onastick at 5:07 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]




It's blue and gold. Like MeFi.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:09 PM on February 26, 2015 [36 favorites]


My best guess is that people are taking different cues from their interpretation of the environment and lighting of the scene, perhaps based partly on their experience, partly on something more random. We will naturally try to compensate in order to determine the 'real' colour and I assume that different people are doing that in different ways.
posted by adrianhon at 5:09 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


What

I saw white and gold. I wanted it to be blue and black.

What is this sorcery.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


(here is the Ask MeFi post looking for explanations as well)
posted by mathowie at 5:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was all white and gold until something flipped and now it's blue and black and I can't go back.
posted by yellowbinder at 5:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


75% vote white and gold. I'm one of them.

It's settled.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


White and gold.
posted by odinsdream at 5:11 PM on February 26, 2015


I have only seen blue and black. My wife initially saw white and gold, but then switched over to blue and black. My 3 1/2 year old son started with blue and black and now sees white and gold.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:11 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Blue and black.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:12 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you've ever written vision software you know how much the human brain fills in for colors. A task like "find the green ball" is so easy that a baby or a dog could do it, but when you're writing code you realize that the color values are nowhere near green due to lighting and shading and your brain is doing all the work.
posted by miyabo at 5:12 PM on February 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


I was a fairly solid white & gold until I saw a better picture of the same dress (linked in the AskMe thread). Now the original picture is a much more saturated blue. I wonder if prompting plays a role?
posted by jedicus at 5:12 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


A dress is not a dress on a hanger.
posted by poe at 5:12 PM on February 26, 2015


I would dearly love to see some video of the person wearing that dress in motion — I suspect even just five seconds would be enough to clarify things.

Team white and gold, although I can see why some folks are seeing blue — but not black. My wife is team blue and brown.
posted by metaquarry at 5:13 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's BLUE and GOLD. Or more of a soft lilac and gold.

I just want to say: with net neutrality, the Andrews/Plummer post, the llamas, and this dress mystertainment, this has just been the best day on the internet. Lots of laughter and glee.

It's like one of those rare days when something is in the air and everybody everywhere - in traffic, the radio, the coffee shop, and work - is in a good mood for no obvious reason.
posted by barchan at 5:13 PM on February 26, 2015 [38 favorites]


I only see blue and brown. I still have no idea how anyone could see that as white.
posted by wrabbit at 5:13 PM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


I may agree with a gold-ish hue, but everyone who sees any white whatsoever in that is a replicant
posted by naju at 5:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


I saw blue and gold so clearly I am some kind of deviant.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's basically gray and gray: in the poorly exposed photo, there's not that much color information. Our poor brains work out whatever it can get. What you see depends on your head, screen, OS/color settings, brightness, angle between head and display, etc...
posted by zachlipton at 5:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'd say it's impossible to tell because of distortion caused by the lighting and the camera.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I showed my uninfected wife on the exact same device I'm using and she immediately said blue and black, while I saw white and gold.
posted by odinsdream at 5:15 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I cannot for the life of me see gold and white and cannot even begin to perceive how someone else might.
posted by skycrashesdown at 5:15 PM on February 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


Oh thank god because I just came across this link on tumblr and had no context in which to put it. Sadly now I can't see the white/gold version, thanks to the power of suggestion I guess?
posted by rewil at 5:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel like there's also a classic 'old crone/young woman' optical illusion thing going on where both possibilities are consistent with the cues provided but they are also mutually exclusive at any one time. Maybe there's some kind of cascading wave through visual cortex neurones that starts out from a randomish seed that decides which colours you see, and once that wave passes it's hard but not impossible to reverse it.

Or maybe it's like 1am here and I'm still upset that the Indian restaurant we had dinner with Jessamyn tonight didn't deliver my ice cream.
posted by adrianhon at 5:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I keep going back to the image, and just cannot figure how anyone sees any white in that dress. It's like I'm looking at a blue sky and people are telling me it's plaid.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


the original is black and blue. like i saw.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Dangit, mathowie. You posted while I was composing my post on my phone. *sigh*

Team white/gold 4evah.
posted by jferg at 5:17 PM on February 26, 2015


I'm solidly white-and-gold when I just look at the image as a whole, the way one normally would. However, If I scroll down, such that only the lower part of the dress is still on my screen, I can watch it turn blue before my very eyes. The lace gets darker, too; I wouldn't say black, but I would venture maybe brown.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


How did all you trolls decide unanimously to make like it's blue and black?
posted by pickles_have_souls at 5:18 PM on February 26, 2015 [57 favorites]


It is a bluey-white and gold, but if you squint the gold turns black and the bluey-white becomes blue.
posted by duvatney at 5:18 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The blue/white ambiguity I understand - in fact if not prompted I think I would have said bluish white, or one cast toward the other by lighting. But I'm pretty much unable to see the gold as black.
posted by atoxyl at 5:18 PM on February 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


I see a slightly-bluish white and brownish gold, FWIW.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:18 PM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


In a literal sense all I can see is "lilac and kind of brassy greenish". The background doesn't seem quite orange-y enough to have made white look blue in the foreground, but I would have guessed it was probably white and gold just because white and gold would be more common colors for a dress? But that's my brain; my eyes just think it's a hideous picture and I can't really figure out how anybody "sees" either the true colors or the false ones without thinking about it.
posted by Sequence at 5:19 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I will take this thing apart pixel by pixel, if I have to. I can't see anything but white with gold lace. The white has a slight bluish cast from the lighting and the contrast woth the gold, but I can't make it be blue and black at all.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:19 PM on February 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


My three year old sees blue and gold, same device.
posted by odinsdream at 5:20 PM on February 26, 2015


I am trying and trying to see anything other than white and gold but I can't. Neither can anyone in my family. I am worried I'm being pranked.
posted by escabeche at 5:20 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Huh. All I can see is a sort of large, rugose cone with tentacles and a layer of viscous semi-fluid at its base.
posted by Atom Eyes at 5:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [84 favorites]


What I see depends on the tilt of my monitor.
posted by drezdn at 5:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


To ask a really dumb question -- can't somebody just look at the file and actually report what colors the pixels are?
posted by escabeche at 5:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I see only blue and black. I wonder if the overexposure in the top right corner is a visual clue that causes people to see it as white in deep shadow.
posted by TimTypeZed at 5:22 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's white and gold. The white is like maybe a little silvery-blue if you really kind of work at it, but that's never black.
posted by angerbot at 5:22 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I saw white and gold the first time, no question.

Then I closed the window, read the thread, went back and looked again, and now it's clearly blue and black.

SO I'm clearly losing my mind. It's been a long week, I guess I'm not surprised.
posted by colbeagle at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's blue and black guys, what the hell. I was shocked that most people think it's white and gold!
posted by liquorice at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I cannot not see that blue. I cannot see the other colour as some kind of dark-lit gold. I thought it might have been because I'm using redshift, but I just checked on my phone and the blue is even bluer, if not downright purple.

How is anyone seeing white?

Has anyone verified that people seeing white and people seeing blue are actually looking at the same image? Because at this point I'm suspecting prank involving consistently serving different images to the same people from the same page.
posted by motty at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I first saw it as cornflower blue and a faded, rusty black. After reading all the sincere claims that it's white and gold and I'm seeing it wrong because [explanation], I've been following every link, switching to tablet and phone, and even playing with the colour temperature on my monitor. Nothing I do can make me see that dress as gold and white. I'm pretty damn suggestible, I have no problems with magic eye tricks, and I saw the pirouetting dancer change direction several times. I just cannot see this as white and gold.
posted by maudlin at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


I see white and gold, across two different monitors.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2015


IT CHANGED IN FRONT OF MY EYES. i've gone back and forth a dozen times now and then while scrolling down the page my perception actually changed mid image. this is voodoo and i need some good crystals or a smudge stick or something. the internet has been proven to be witches.
posted by nadawi at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


Also "what color does this dress look in this image" is not the same as "work out what color you think the dress in this image "really" is."
posted by atoxyl at 5:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I cannot for the life of me see gold and white and cannot even begin to perceive how someone else might.

I see gold and white, and I can't imagine how anyone could see anything else. I honestly thought that the blue-and-black thing was a big prank at first. I'm still not convinced that it isn't.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Blue and a semi-shiny black that is picking up the light. Shocked anyone sees white.
posted by nom de poop at 5:24 PM on February 26, 2015


White and gold. Multiple devices. White and gold, dammit.
posted by jazon at 5:24 PM on February 26, 2015


Lilac blue and a bronzey black. The top black part of the dress looks sheer, which might contribute to it not looking pure black.
posted by cmyk at 5:25 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that 75% of Buzzfeed readers must like to troll people when they answer online polls.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:26 PM on February 26, 2015


It's a light bluish-grey and a brownish gold. I mean... that's what I saw and I checked it in Photoshop to confirm. I don't understand the confusion. Objectively it's a light bluish grey and a brownish gold.
posted by Justinian at 5:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!

(white and gold for me)
posted by jcreigh at 5:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


I see white-but-maybe-the-color-temperature-is-off-so-it-sort-of-looks-bluish. I don't know how you people are getting black instead of gold, though.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh god this how the war starts
posted by angerbot at 5:27 PM on February 26, 2015 [103 favorites]


I can make the gold black if I put my face an inch away and on one side of my monitor. Other the gold is so very gold.
posted by neroli at 5:28 PM on February 26, 2015


To me it is decidedly blue and black. Does anyone know of a good technique that could switch one's perpective?
posted by The Potate at 5:28 PM on February 26, 2015


The real problem is it's a terrible picture with terrible lighting and all kinds of jpg artifacts. Take a decent picture with even mediocre lighting and let us see the PNG and all this goes away I bet.
posted by Justinian at 5:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I was so firmly in the gold and white camp, you guys. And then I looked at this side-by-side image, looked at the Buzzfeed post again, looked at the side-by-side image again, read this thread, and then went back to Buzzfeed and now it's black and blue.

Truly, I can't even.
posted by redsparkler at 5:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Also "what color does this dress look in this image" is not the same as "work out what color you think the dress in this image "really" is."

Which question are we asking? Is there dispute about what color the literal pixels on the screen are?
posted by escabeche at 5:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


keep tabbing to the picture and off of it and scrolling up and down to it. when it swaps colors you're going to think you've lost your marbles a little bit - and then you're gonna be sure when it flips back.
posted by nadawi at 5:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It appears that all of the colour-flippers have gone from white/gold to blue/black and not vice versa. Theories? To me the blue is solidly periwinkle blue, but I can get why people see the lace as gold, especially on the yoke.
posted by Rora at 5:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was solidly white and gold until I looked at the color corrected image in rewil's link.

Now going back to the original it is clearly blue and black and I can't trick my eyes into seeing white/gold again.

And, yes, the white was originally a bluish-white, but this is entirely different. It is now a rick and vibrant blue. And the black.... I can't even find a hint of gold in it anymore...

Wat.
posted by 256 at 5:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I spoiled it for myself and see blue and gold. Not even a hint of white or black.

I feel like I should see someone about that.
posted by Slackermagee at 5:29 PM on February 26, 2015


There's more than one photo. And more than one troll.
posted by GuyZero at 5:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I like how this thing went up nearly simultaneously on the blue, the green, and the IRC chat. Where we are now horrifiedly discussing it.
posted by sciatrix at 5:30 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm seeing blue and black.

Using chrome plugin color picker
for "blue" part it's #7a7ea3
and " black" part it's #70613a
posted by Carius at 5:30 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I saw white and gold the first time, no question.

Then I closed the window, read the thread, went back and looked again, and now it's clearly blue and black.


This is exactly what happened to me. I'm genuinely having a hard time believing I saw the same picture both times.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:30 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


This Tumblr post suggests that what color you see the dress in depends on how sensitive your eyes are (and may have something to do with your night vision).
posted by divabat at 5:30 PM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Also, it's totally blue and black, but I can see where you weirdoes are getting white and gold.
posted by sciatrix at 5:30 PM on February 26, 2015


The RGB value of the "black" or "gold" or whatever you want to call it is 92, 74, 59
The RGB value of the blue (or white, if you are insane) is 122, 124, 162. You can plug those number in here to see what you get. (Hint: white is 255, 255, 255.)
posted by desjardins at 5:31 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just looked at the pixels (randomly selected one from each segment). This is in 8-bit RGB:

119,106,62 for gold/black
139,145,169 for white/blue

So the actual pixels are grayish-blue and very dim gold, which is what some people such as me are seeing. But in the real world the dress is black and blue, and some other people's visual systems are kicking in and compensating for the weird lighting and chromatic adaptation done by the camera.
posted by vogon_poet at 5:32 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I see gold and white, and I can't imagine how anyone could see anything else. I honestly thought that the blue-and-black thing was a big prank at first. I'm still not convinced that it isn't.

Are you saying you can't see a blueish tint? Or people on the blue side saying they don't see it as a very light blue? I see it very clearly as a color that might be called in either direction, so I'm wondering how much this is a category issue versus truly a perception issue?

On the other hand I can't imagine seeing black except as an extrapolation - "the picture looks brown/gold but I can tell it's really darker than that" - so if people really can't see any blue I guess I do understand the feeling.
posted by atoxyl at 5:32 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Roses are black.
Violets are white.
75% of you are raving mad.
I'm more than slightly scared right now.
posted by motty at 5:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [20 favorites]


I was solidly white and gold until I looked at the color corrected image in rewil's link.

I just looked at that link. It appears to be a white and gold dress in lower light.

(When I say "white" I mean "lilac" or something, there's a bluish tone but nothing like the color shown in the ad page for the dress.)
posted by escabeche at 5:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I noticed that some people who saw gold and white first now see blue and black, which leads me to confirm that I'm right and it's blue and black dammit! (because I can't cope otherwise!)
posted by liquorice at 5:33 PM on February 26, 2015




There never was a dress.

We are all dead

And this is hell.
posted by The Whelk at 5:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [78 favorites]


To me, it's an overexposed blue, and the black is kind of faded and bronzeish black. But it's so clearly an overexposure effect on a blue and black dress, guys. SO CLEARLY.
posted by sciatrix at 5:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


not several pictures and several trolls - i've seen it both ways so many times at this point - on the same picture, on different pictures, on different displays. my eyes just keep reinterpreting it, completely out of my control.

i was just as sure as many here before it swapped (and swapped back) - that there were different pictures or display properties or a very slow gif or something - but then i saw both and now i don't know what is is.
posted by nadawi at 5:34 PM on February 26, 2015


It is blue and black. I can tell by looking at the pixels and from seeing quite a few dresses in my time.
posted by hellphish at 5:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


+3 for blue and black, and confusion on how you could see otherwise (though the bit on top looks like it could be mistaken for gold).
posted by filthy light thief at 5:34 PM on February 26, 2015


It was definitely a white dress with gold trim in weird lighting that gave it a slight blue-ish tint.

Now it's definitely a deep blue dress with black trim.

I'm not convinced there's not shenanigans happening.
posted by jaguar at 5:35 PM on February 26, 2015


atoxyl: I see it as a very saturated blue.
posted by divabat at 5:35 PM on February 26, 2015


Well, I guess I have very sensitive eyes because I see it as blue and blackish (see above) even after dimming the room and changing the temperature on my monitor AGAIN.

Then again, it doesn't really matter what colour pickers show. Anyone who's tried painting a still life with white objects knows that "white" eggs aren't really white. We're just going to perceive some things differently.

And those of you seeing gold and white: get some sleep, get some eye drops, and stop reading your phone in bed. I care about you.
posted by maudlin at 5:36 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's, like, super light blue and gold/light brown.

And ugly.
posted by droplet at 5:36 PM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


It's obviously way overexposed. At first it looked blue and gold (with the gold shading to black down the dress, which I took to be a function of bad lighting on that part, but now I can see that the black bit on top is just very harshly lit and is probably not that glossy or rich to begin with, hence the goldish tint.

You "white" folks just can't see very well.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:37 PM on February 26, 2015


I've looked at it a lot and now I have a headache.
posted by halifix at 5:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is crazy.

I just fired up Twitter and saw everyone talking about colors and dresses and I come here to see if I can figure out what the fuss is about. I bring up the photo and... it's a white and gold dress. So I'm thinking maybe the photo changes at random. Without telling him what it was about I show the picture to my son and ask him what color it is.

"It's blue and black."

I swear to god I never expected him to say that. To my eyes it is clearly gold and sort of a bluish white, which I assume was just white under bad lighting.

But blue and black? No freakin' way.

He's insisting and he can't for the life of him understand how anyone, especially me, could see it any other way.

This is crazy. We are all crazy. Or at least half of you are.
posted by bondcliff at 5:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


And after being convinced with a little Photoshopping, I've come around to the blue and black side, and now I trust no one or anything.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:39 PM on February 26, 2015


I switched from my phone to computer, and the blue-and-black faction seems slightly less insane.

I started typing up my Learned Analysis (read: uninformed ramblings), but the damn thing switched back and forth between white-and-gold and blue-and-black about eighteen times.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:39 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Then Monty opens door #2, revealing a white and gold dress.
posted by escabeche at 5:39 PM on February 26, 2015 [24 favorites]


How did photoshopping convince you? I mean, I'm convinced it's a blue and black dress under terrible lighting but what's in the image is a bunch of light bluish grey and brownish golds.
posted by Justinian at 5:39 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


The maker of the dress should add a white/gold version to their catalog, maybe for Halloween if nothing else. Bring the chaos to the streets.
posted by rewil at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [33 favorites]


The lighting is warm as all hell, I really can't see how the lighting here would make something appear cooler than its actual color.
posted by hellphish at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


the dress comes in three colors

WAKE UP SHEEPLE
posted by NoraReed at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Huh. I went to show this to the husband and he saw white and gold, but same link, same screen, everything, and it was deeply and immediately blue and black to me.

But in the meantime between when I first looked at it and then looked again, the sun had gone down enough that I turned on the lights. But my husband had just come in from outside, where it was still kind of gray out.

So I like this sensitivity to light/night vision hypothesis.
posted by barchan at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Was completely in the white/gold camp. Then tilted my phone 90 degrees...now the dress is blue/black.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another explanation based around cones and rods, folks, cones and rods.
posted by maudlin at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ok. Ok. I was looking at this closely and from all angles: totally white and gold.

Got up, walked across the room, turned around.

Screamed.

It is blue and black.
posted by damo at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


We are all crazy. Or at least half of you are.

Bad news. It's 75% and you're in it.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2015


I have transcended all of you puny humans.

It took a while, but I can now switch it from white/gold to blue/black at will.

Please try not to put your backs out as you bow before me--you'll need all your strength to fulfill your duties in my labor camps.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


White material with a blue hue, gilded copper color fringe.
posted by clavdivs at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2015


THAT DRESS HASN'T GOT ANY GOLD THOUGH

WHERE IS YOUR GOLD NOW
posted by sciatrix at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I really hope this turns out to mean something. Like, somewhere, a social psychologist is working up some sort of correlation with a personality trait inventory.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tonight when I go to bed I will dream of Vikings in blue and/or white dresses.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Four colors! It's been red all along!
posted by jaguar at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Even on my laptop it is gold. The white is sort of bluish, but there is no black anywhere. Nothing even remotely black.
posted by bondcliff at 5:43 PM on February 26, 2015


I see FOUR LIGHTS!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:43 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have a giant monitor and so I had both visible at once. when I scrolled so that only the bottom third of the top image was visible, the white switched to blue immediately in both. I can't see black, though.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2015


Try as I might I just could not see the blue and black that the original dress supposedly is until I opened it up in photoshop and "corrected" the white balance as if was a white and gold dress, and then suddenly I could perceive the blue and black in the source image. I say perceive, because it still didn't look blue and black, but I could see how they were there. Never let it be said the camera doesn't lie, because that black is objectively yellowed. :)
posted by adamt at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2015


My entire family has turned against me over this. I hope you're happy, Internet.
posted by bondcliff at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think it's the black and white dress with bad color adjustment. Personally, I'm seeing blue and gold, and no matter what I do, I cannot make the gold turn black. How are you people doing that?
posted by Hactar at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


All my screens in my house are Apple/Mac and I can only see blue and black. I'm going to work so I can look at a this on a shitty monitor. Gold and White, here I come!
posted by The Potate at 5:45 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just asked my eight year old daughter what color the dress is. She said blue and black. I said really? I see white and gold. Her response: oh yeah, I can see that too. I can sort of see both.

*boggled*
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:45 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only effect is that the while and gold reversed themselves on angled viewing. No other colors for me on this macbook.
posted by Danf at 5:45 PM on February 26, 2015


I see FOUR LIGHTS!

I smell burnt toast!
posted by maudlin at 5:46 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Here are the major colors in the uncorrected image. I assume nobody sees black there?
posted by Justinian at 5:46 PM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Holy shit. This is crazy. At first I thought this was just a funny Tumblr joke, like Germany's Bielefeld thing or r/newzealand's garden thing. Then, as it started to spread I thought there was some kind of trickery where someone figured out how to make a single image link on Tumblr show multiple, alternating images (not like an animated gif, but more like something that can show different static images randomly or something). Instead, what this is is yet more evidence that everything is lies and nothing is real.
posted by mhum at 5:47 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Blue and black.

And I'm color blind.

The world makes no sense.
posted by Myca at 5:47 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I say "white" I mean "lilac" or something

Wait, is that what we all mean? lilac is blue lol
posted by naju at 5:47 PM on February 26, 2015


119,106,62 for gold/black
139,145,169 for white/blue


The problem is the dress barely has any color at all. The gold/black is grey with a slight deficit of green and a bigger deficit of blue; the white/blue is slightly brighter grey with a slight excess of green and a bigger excess of blue.

I'm seeing white/gold with the white having a definite bluish tint, but the visual system is famously ignorant of absolute values (have a little fun and watch Tim's Vermeer sometime) so I can see how these relative values could be turned into different absolutes, kind of like a color Necker cube.
posted by localroger at 5:47 PM on February 26, 2015


White and gold. Are you all real? Is anything real? Am I here alone?
posted by triage_lazarus at 5:48 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blackandyellowblackandyellowblackandyellowblackandyellow
posted by grumpybear69 at 5:48 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Guys, read the link that maudlin posted above: https://twitter.com/rebelashton/status/571116554357596160

People who see blue/black are just smarter have better vision.
posted by desjardins at 5:48 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


it's squant colored
posted by reedcourtneyj at 5:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I saw white and gold for a good twenty minutes before it switched to black and blue. Now I can kindof see both.
posted by CarolynG at 5:49 PM on February 26, 2015


The llamas captured our hearts but the dress is tearing it apart.
posted by Fizz at 5:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


People who see white: how does the dress look compared to the white background of the Buzzfeed page? To my eye, the dress is much darker. I can see how it might be read as gray, but I can't get myself to see it as white.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:49 PM on February 26, 2015


I started with blue/black and now am on white/gold. It does change from one to the other based on on far I slump in my chair so I'm chalking this up to terribly overexposed photo and view-angle limits on lcd screens.

People on your phones - does it change if you rock your wrist up and down?
posted by thecjm at 5:50 PM on February 26, 2015




The llama captured our hearts but the dress is tearing it apart.

I miss those gold and blue llamas.
posted by naju at 5:50 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


As NoraReed points out it actually comes in blue/black or white/black so nobody will ever know.
posted by atoxyl at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2015


Dude, fuck.

I have STARED at this dress. I've scrolled up and down. I've reloaded the page. I just saw a (poorly exposed slightly blue) dress with gold stripes. I showed my husband and he first said black and blue but then titled the screen more toward him and he reluctantly said kinda white and gold.

I would have died on the hill saying it's a white and gold dress.

Then I scrolled down and back up and now it's straight up blue and black. Even Photoshop says it's like a grey-blue. So either I'm fucking crazy or something is going down.

I straight up almost cried when the colors were different. Now ALL I'm seeing is black and blue.

AM I CRAZY? I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!
posted by Crystalinne at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Guys, read the link that maudlin posted above: https://twitter.com/rebelashton/status/571116554357596160

The author's qualifications appear to be "I read it on the internet so it must be true" though.
posted by Justinian at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It keeps changing colors, going back and forth! This is unreal!

Honestly, I think someone is fucking with the internet and if so, bravo. now cut it the fuck out
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


What do you guys think of If I only had a penguin's explanation over on Ask? Wouldn't that explain why some people are able to make the dress switch colours?
posted by Rora at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I see white and gold and can't see anything else. My mother, looking at the screen at the same time, sees blue and black and nothing else. My dad says teal and brown.

Thanks for giving us something to argue about other than whether Obama should be impeached, Internet.
posted by olinerd at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


That Tumblr post is utterly wrong. It's really confused about additive and subtractive colors. Also about how to interpret those curves on the chart. If your "blue" cones were for some reason shut down and blue light hit your eyes, you wouldn't see "white, the absence of black", you would see black because it's as if there's no light. It is definitely not the case that really short wavelength blue light is colored black, it's just that your eye stops being able to pick it up at short wavelengths and so you see nothing. There are more problems going on but that one is the most egregious.

Really, the broader phenomenon of color constancy is one you can observe with some colored lights and a box of objects. Or just by looking at your own shirt, then walking outdoors and looking at it again.

The lighting is warm as all hell, I really can't see how the lighting here would make something appear cooler than its actual color.

Your brain goes "Oh, there's warm lighting, that means that everything I'm seeing is going to look a little warmer than it really is. Better compensate."
posted by vogon_poet at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


but how do any of the better eyesight explanations account for those of us where it just keeps changing?!
posted by nadawi at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


According to my GIMP's color picker, the white/blue area is this extremely light blue (almost more of a gray, really) and the black/gold area is this color that is objectively not black (seriously, you can see what black looks like to its left).
posted by IAmUnaware at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ditto Crystalline. Are we all insane!?!?!?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Black and blue. From the moment it loaded on screen.

I WIN!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2015


My husband and I both see blue/black so our marriage is safe!
posted by ilana at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes you are.
posted by nom de poop at 5:53 PM on February 26, 2015


It was obviously, undoubtedly black and blue when I saw it on Facebook. And then I followed the link and it was clearly white and gold, without any doubt. And then I flipped back t o Facebook and it was white and gold. Sometimes it kind of looks like both, sometimes it looks like it can't possibly look like anything other than what it is at that very second.

It must be some kind of memetic hazard.
posted by Foosnark at 5:53 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ok, I'm being punked here, right? This is clearly some social psychology experiment where paid people (those white-and-gold-sayers) try to confuse us, black-and-blue'ers.

BLACK AND BLUE FOREVER.

TRY AND STOP ME.
posted by bigendian at 5:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


RALPH LAUREN, WHAT DO YOU SEE!
posted by clavdivs at 5:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


This seems related to the (amazing) optical illusions here and here that fool your eyes into thinking the same gray spot is either blue or yellow.

If you see the photo and your brain thinks "yellow filter," you get one image. If your brain thinks "blue filter," you get the other.
posted by jhc at 5:55 PM on February 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


It looks like what's happening is the brain is compensating for a context that isn't consistent between experiences. If someone has photoshop (I don't have it anymore), cut and paste the dress into a bright beach scene or a fluorescent office it will look white. Compare it to the same dress superimposed over an incandescently lit background (like a restaurant or theatre) and it'll look blue/black.

on preview: jhc has it.
posted by damo at 5:56 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see a pretty lame Buzzfeed hoax.
posted by codacorolla at 5:56 PM on February 26, 2015


I was only able to see black after I turned off the room lights and dimmed my monitor. That is the only way there is anything close to black on that dress. Regarding white vs blue: it is either white in shadow or blue that is overexposed, it's easy to see both there. My initial impression is always white and gold though based on the picture we're given.
posted by bobobox at 5:56 PM on February 26, 2015


So we are arguing over the Blue or a professional white background?
posted by ilana at 5:56 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


What do you guys think of If I only had a penguin's explanation over on Ask?

I think it's the best theory we've heard so far. That twitter "Your blue cones aren't working" explanation reeks of BS to me.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:57 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


You folks using color pickers are averaging samples from multiple points, right? If you're simply sampling a single pixel, you just aren't getting a correct result.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:58 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


light grey blue dress, dark copper trim... however, I would anticipate that the grey blue might be white in real life, and is in a poorly lit situation.
posted by NorthernAutumn at 5:58 PM on February 26, 2015


I see black and blue, as does my wife and both kids. My wife insisted that people are trolling when they say they see white and gold. The only way I see white and gold is by inverting the screen colors (looking at this on my iphone, so by using the invert colors function in the accessibility settings)!
posted by odin53 at 5:59 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


White/gold for me, BUT - I first saw this in the evening while f.lux was running on my computer, tinting everything a bit towards red. I can kiiiind of see the white as blue and the gold a bit darker if I disable f.lux and really stare for a while at the white.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:59 PM on February 26, 2015


In Photoscape, turning down the gamma brightness (but not the linear brightness) reliably turns it blue. I suspect this is the true color of the overexposed source because that also restores a lot of color in the background.
posted by localroger at 5:59 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


BWA : This won't help. Or maybe it will. If so, please advise. I used to see white, now I see blue.

The image actually makes it all really clear. It would be fun to watch an animation of that transition, or better yet, an image with a slider you could adjust the luminosity (?) dynamically.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Interesting... if I stare at it for long enough and sort of de-focus I can almost of see how people might possible mistake the colors for white/gold but it never truly flips for me.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:00 PM on February 26, 2015


See what happens when the entire eastern United states has cabin fever for an entire month? See!?
posted by The Whelk at 6:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [24 favorites]


OK, there's what you think the real color of the dress is, and the color of the pixels on the screen. The former is highly debatable. The latter really isn't. The primary fabric pixels are some kind of lilac hue, and the ruffled parts have brownish pixels. There's also a lot of noise in the image; often, it seems like the color white can get a "rainbow" effect when digital artifacts remove, which makes it easy to see different things. But when I look at the top of the dress, specifically the jacket, it's hard for me to imagine it as other than white. Sure, the jacket might not be the same color, but it looks very very close. This is not to say that I know what color it actually is, but I'm strongly suspecting white.
posted by Edgewise at 6:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Based off of @rebelashton's post linked above, does which colors you see depend on what you were looking at for the 15-20 seconds *just before* you looked at the picture?

Like maybe some people's blue cones were over-saturated when they first looked at at and so they didn't see the dress as blue, but as they regain blue sensitivity they start to see the blue?

If people who initially saw it as white+gold could remember and recreate their vision field before looking at it (hard to impossible, I know), and then look at it again, that would be a perfect experiment to test that hypothesis.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:00 PM on February 26, 2015


filthy light thief that's pretty much what happens when you slide the gamma brightness control in photoscape.
posted by localroger at 6:01 PM on February 26, 2015


I stared at it and tried to see white/gold and did for about five seconds, before it flipped back to lilac and blackish brown (or brownish black).
posted by cmyk at 6:02 PM on February 26, 2015


If it didn't mean starting over on my education, I'd be tempted to use this as the center of my Ph.D. thesis and see if there's a genetic or societal aspect that affects your answer.
posted by divabat at 6:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've had f.lux on, f.lux off. lights on, lights off, and I still say it's blue and black (but I'm not yet saying the hell with it.)

(Oh. Great.)
posted by maudlin at 6:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


You guys. This is our Sorting Hat, isn't it.
posted by naju at 6:03 PM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Upon further viewing, It's Hamlindigo blue.
posted by bondcliff at 6:03 PM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


Wow, I love stuff like this so much. I still see only white-gold so far.
posted by chimaera at 6:03 PM on February 26, 2015


the dress is neither blue or white or gold or black. the dress is simply twice as much dress as is needed.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Benito.strauss - my mom appears to be able to make it flip for her by looking at different websites in between looking at the dress photo. We haven't determined yet exactly what other websites have what effect, though.
posted by olinerd at 6:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like maybe some people's blue cones were over-saturated when they first looked at at and so they didn't see the dress as blue, but as they regain blue sensitivity they start to see the blue?

There are deeper problems with the cones theory. Saturation does happen but that post just doesn't make any sense. There is no such thing as light that is colored black, such that being temporarily unable to see it would make things appear white.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Clearly the dress is octarine. The trim might be a faded fuligin.
posted by cmyk at 6:05 PM on February 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


My husband saw white and gold earlier (same laptop, multiple indoor environments) but now sees blue and black. I have sat down next to him and it's still white and gold.

One of us is a cylon.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:05 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I saw (blueish)white/gold, then it switched to blue/black, and now I apparently can flip back and forth between them as I please. Colors are everywhere and nothing means anything
posted by pemberkins at 6:06 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


If it were blue and black, why the hell would it appear to be white and gold? Wouldn't it just keep getting darker and darker and darker and darker and darker and darker and darker and darker and darker?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:07 PM on February 26, 2015


AAAAAH, I could only see white and gold before. I saw it first on my PC, so I checked on my phone, white and gold there. I saved the JPEG on my computer, because at the time I was still suspicious that Buzzfeed was having us on, and I wanted to have something to compare against if I ever saw it as blue and black in the future.

Half an hour later, in a different room with different lighting, I unlocked my phone, and the image was still open from before, and it's fucking blue and black. I went back to the Buzzfeed page on my PC, it's goddamn blue and black. I loaded the JPEG that I saved from before, the one I named "seemingly_white_and_gold.jpg". FUCKING BLUE AND BLACK.

So yeah, it's a legit difference in perception, not two images being swapped randomly by trolls.

Also, nothing is real, all is permitted, the very fabric of reality is tearing apart and our darkest nightmares are clawing through, etc, etc.
posted by jcreigh at 6:07 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Is it even a dress or is it a frock?
posted by Fizz at 6:07 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


NoraReed's amazon review is making me laugh out loud inappropriately.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:08 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Don't eat the gold acid.
posted by parki at 6:08 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I brought it up on my iPhone screen, and it looks blue and black.

I brought it up on my MacBook Pro screen, and it looks white and gold.

If I hold up the iPhone screen next to the MBP screen, they show different colors.

Therefore, I suspect that this is probably not an optical illusion, but a difference in how people's displays are rendering the image color space.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 6:08 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oooh, thinking about that cone saturation theory, now I wish that everybody who told us the colors they see in this thread had also told us whether they're using the white or blue color scheme for MeFi.

I'm willing to bet that there's some correlation... FWIW I'm team whitish/goldish and I'm using the light mode color scheme at MeFi here at work.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:08 PM on February 26, 2015


For everyone who is talking about the pixels, the argument is over the apparent ACTUAL color of the dress in the photo and it comes down to this: is the (blue/black) dress in extremely bright light or is it in shadow (white/gold)? Is it all overexposed or just the background? Where is the light source? And as a white/gold person my brain is interpreting it as behind the dress but in front of the photographer, whereas it's actually likely behind the photographer.
posted by capricorn at 6:08 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Can't see anything but a soft blue dress with gold trimmings, don't see any ambiguity, don't see how anyone could see anything else. Bizarre.
posted by Greener Backyards at 6:09 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing the blue-black people are using TN based displays and looking from off the viewing angle. I couldn't see it as anything but white or gold until I set the picture on my laptop and looked at it from below (which is the easiest way to reliably get out of viewing angle on a TN based display).

That might explain why pairs of people see different things; one is in front of the computer, and one's off to the side, out of viewing angle.
posted by Mitrovarr at 6:09 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The king in yellow gold
posted by The Whelk at 6:09 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Also "what color does this dress look in this image" is not the same as "work out what color you think the dress in this image "really" is."

I don't think those things are really separable. Most of us don't concern ourselves with what colours really look like nearly as often as we have the opportunity to. The things around us are changing colour all the time -- as the sun goes down, lights switch on, shadows are cast -- but our familiarity with the things themselves and with the effects of light/its absence allow us the context we need to perceive their colours as stable. With that context, we're so good at this that we don't need to think of the colour a dress appears to be and the colour a dress really is as two different things. It's only when we don't necessarily understand the context (as in this picture) or when the context has been contrived just to trick us (as in the checker shadow illusion) that the wheels start to fall off. Personally, in this case, I initially interpreted the dress as being in a comparatively shadowy area of the room, where it seemed to be white-under-shadow with gold trim in an unusual fabric. But blocking the background out with my hands allowed me to see the dress as if it were well lit, and to reinterpret the white-in-shadow as blue and the gold as black-reflecting-light. So I now see both.

On preview, yes, I think If I only had a penguin... is right.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


FWIW I'm team whitish/goldish and I'm using the light mode color scheme at MeFi here at work.

Sorry, I'm using the white scheme, too, and have been working on Word and a lot of programs with a white background today, and I'm seeing the dress as black and blue everywhere.
posted by maudlin at 6:11 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah well, just a thought.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:11 PM on February 26, 2015


On a related note- since when did the UK end up with all the cheap, cute dresses?!
posted by small_ruminant at 6:12 PM on February 26, 2015


There are FOUR lights.
posted by Fizz at 6:12 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Listen

The dress was an inside job
posted by The Whelk at 6:12 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


It just slowly faded on me from white/bold to blue/black. Then I open the buzzfeed link in another page and it's white and gold. Then I looked at it on my phone and it was blue/black, then when I looked at the same tab on my computer, it was blue/black.

Have I mentioned that I wear glasses?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:13 PM on February 26, 2015


FWIW I'm team whitish/goldish and I'm using the light mode color scheme at MeFi here at work.

I too am using the Professional White color scheme, but I am extremely firmly in the blue/black camp. Sorry.

Query for all of you. What's your night vision like? I have very good night vision; for me, it is almost never completely dark inside a room, even if the blinds are shut and the lights are all off.
posted by sciatrix at 6:14 PM on February 26, 2015


Good job we didn't make stoplights out of this dress material.

I don't know if this helps one way or another but here are some swatches from the image.

I sampled the two circles on the left (OR ARE THEY TRIANGLES?!) with the average of that area and then plopped down the dot indicating my target. The area above straddles the light/dark split fairly evenly for maximal ethics in game journalism.

I think the black/gold argument is anyone's game but I'm having a really hard time coming to the terms with the apparent fact that some people see the other stripes as white.
posted by stevvvn at 6:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


cf. Simultaneous Contrast

Note that blue and yellow are complementary colors
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ladies and gentlemen, I think the defining moment of the Millennial generation has arrived.
posted by duffell at 6:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


IT CAN'T BE DISPLAY DIFFERENCES! sitting in the same spot, no light changing in the room, not tiling or leaning, i'm sitting a fixed distance away from my monitor and it's changing color sometimes while i'm looking at the picture.
posted by nadawi at 6:15 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Everybody stop!!!
It's the NSA testing thier new Snow Crash, version 0.2 alpha build.
posted by daq at 6:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I can understand the gold (though I see it as black), but there's no level of white balance/exposure I've seen to make the blue parts of the dress not be blue.
posted by ndfine at 6:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


If it didn't mean starting over on my education, I'd be tempted to use this as the center of my Ph.D. thesis and see if there's a genetic or societal aspect that affects your answer.

This would be really cool to know, actually. It's definitely the kind of thing that's cognitive rather than just physiological. It relies on your brain actually recognizing something about the objects in the scene -- if you made an abstract design with the same colors, nobody would be arguing about this.

If it were blue and black, why the hell would it appear to be white and gold? Wouldn't it just keep getting darker and darker and darker and darker and darker and darker and darker and darker and darker?

Digital cameras do all kinds of weird color adjustments, especially to deal with extremes in lighting and exposure. The result here is that it's kind of the reverse of what you're thinking.

The real dress is black and blue; the poorly-taken distorted photograph is truly gold-and-gray and that's what's on your screen.Some people's brains then do adjust to make it seem darker and cooler, like the real dress, but not everyone. (on preview: i guess some people's brains can't make up their minds.) If you do a transformation in Photoshop to approximately reverse the adjustments the camera might have made (seen above in this thread), you get a definitely black-and-blue dress.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait, now I'm confused. Some people are claiming the pixels themselves are black, at least that tumblr post was doing so. If it's just the *perception*, then I'm finding it way less mysterious. The actual colors are a light blue/purple and a dull slightly yellow tinged brown, so I can easily see how people could be reading them as either washed out blue/black or white/gold in shadow. There's well known visual illusions that rely on flipping context to make the same spots look different colors, as mentioned above.
posted by tavella at 6:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


now identify these colors fast
posted by dmd at 6:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


and it's changing color sometimes while i'm looking at the picture.


Trained agents will there soon to administer grade A amnesiacs.

Seriously people this why the we're the C in SCP. Sheesh.
posted by The Whelk at 6:18 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


If I really squint then I can sort of see it as blue and brown. But otherwise I've been staring at this damn thing for longer than I should, and it's light-blue-grey and brown.
Not black, and barely "gold".
posted by jozxyqk at 6:18 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blue and blackers, line up for your belly stars.
posted by Karaage at 6:18 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I didn't see the black until I saved some cropped images. These are unaltered crops of a screenshot of the buzzfeed link.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:19 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can now get it to change by looking at the light on the upper right of the photo. When I consciously decide it's the light source for the photo, the dress looks white and in shadow. When I see it as a reflection of the light source for the photo, the dress looks blue and overexposed.
posted by jaguar at 6:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Some of you need to stay off the roads at night.
posted by desjardins at 6:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I feel like there's also a classic 'old crone/young woman' optical illusion thing going on

It's a classic optical illusion related to this Checker Illusion - even this version, Tricky Gray Boxes, gets people arguing.

I see it as white and gold, and even after looking at the blue and black version, I can't make it switch.
posted by Miko at 6:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]




I don't know if this helps one way or another but here are some swatches from the image.

Fucking hell. That image sort of let me control the change for like 30 seconds. Focusing on the gold swatch would shift to white/gold, while focusing on the blue would shift to blue/black. But now I can't do it, it's all blue/black.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:21 PM on February 26, 2015


The real question is why is it spinning clockwise.
posted by nom de poop at 6:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Huh. Those crops of feloniousmonk's still look brown/gold to me on the trim, and a little light-purply (basically a darker shade of the light bluish-white I continue to see) on the other bits.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Charlie don't surf was there first - I got bogged down in the thread, sorry.
posted by Miko at 6:23 PM on February 26, 2015


motherfuck a duck, how is it blue and black now
posted by cortex at 6:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


This is the most divisive MeFi thread since WipeGate™
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Welcome to the Dark Side, Cortex.
posted by cmyk at 6:24 PM on February 26, 2015


guys HOW DO I SEE THE BLACK :(

the one color looks to me like white that's being given a bluish cast by the photographing apparatus, though I can understand why someone else might interpret it as actual light blue. But wtf I can't see the other color as anything but unambiguous gold.
posted by threeants at 6:25 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


You wear the blue and black dress - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You wear the white and gold dress - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Or is it the other way around? Goddamnit, I forgot.
posted by pyramid termite at 6:25 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is the most divisive MeFi thread since WipeGate™

SITTERS FOREVER
posted by sciatrix at 6:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


the dress on tilted monitor

Even when it's tilted in that video, there's still some blue, and there's still no gold.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:27 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


One dress always tells the truth, and the other dress always lies.
posted by cmyk at 6:27 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


aaaaaaah JESUS I viewed feloniousmonk's crops and now the lace is turning grayer every time I look at the original pic. fuck this devilry
posted by threeants at 6:27 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just showed it to Mr. Mustachio, without any preparation or preface, and he said "It's blue and black," and looked at me like why are you even asking me this.


I still can't see it.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Schroedinger's Dress
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:28 PM on February 26, 2015


Wow
posted by naju at 6:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


YES! YES! YES! I just pulled up the dress from Buzzfeed on the SAME ASUS LAPTOP MODEL as what I'm using now, but using the laptop screen instead of the external Dell screen. The dress showed up as white and gold, although as I started turning away to this computer, it seemed to darken a little.

Let me take a peek back at that computer right now.

HOLY FUCK IT'S BLUE AND BLACK AGAIN. No amount of tilting will make it white and gold again.

I need a beer.
posted by maudlin at 6:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


No Metafilter. Don't get dragged into this as well...
posted by HarveyDenture at 6:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I miss those gold and blue llamas.

The Internet is over.
posted by Wordshore at 6:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


for those seeing only white and gold - does this image change anything for you?
posted by nadawi at 6:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


FYI - its white and gold. #TheDress pic.twitter.com/Z76IKJPTSl— Power Rangers (@PowerRangers) February 27, 2015
posted by Fizz at 6:29 PM on February 26, 2015


That's the white-and-goldiest white-and-gold dress that ever whited and golded.

Gold durn it.
posted by yoink at 6:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see white/gold, but I can make myself see blue/black.it depends which side of the picture you use for your background cue -- on the left is a washed out piece of black and white cloth, butdue to lighting the black cloth is almost the same color as the dress's gold cloth, which then makes you read the lace as black.
posted by Peregrine Pickle at 6:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Huh, I see the white/gold one as an overexposed and poorly colour-balanced version of an underexposed blue/black one. Or maybe the other way round. But I can see how the two separate images could be the same dress. What I don't get is how people see the overexposed image as the underexposed image. Maybe other cues in the image? I should look at this in daylight tomorrow as well.
posted by carter at 6:31 PM on February 26, 2015


for those seeing only white and gold - does this image change anything for you?

I can intellectually understand that the dress is actually blue and black, and that this is a badly-lit photo.. But looking *at* the picture, even at the left side of your side-by-side, it's still greyish-blue and yellowish-brown.
posted by jozxyqk at 6:31 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Staunch white and gold people, I have a few questions for you.

1. Viewing: External monitor or laptop / device screen?
2. Ambience: Dim, brightly lit or daylight in your room?
3. Acid: Brown or orange sunshine?
posted by maudlin at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I lost track of how long I've gone back and forth and scrolled up and down trying to see how people can see white and gold.

It's blue as blue as blue.

It boggles.
posted by Jalliah at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2015


Ooooh, I finally managed to do it... for a few moments I saw white and gold!!!!

Weird.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2015


For those who see black and blue, how does it compare to the black and blue in the image of the dress on amazon?
posted by wemayfreeze at 6:33 PM on February 26, 2015


Wow, the Internet has been a wild ride today.

For what it's worth, white/gold.
posted by a hat out of hell at 6:33 PM on February 26, 2015


I'm going to go with what my color picker in Photoshop says.
posted by codacorolla at 6:33 PM on February 26, 2015


I see it as a pale lilac with dull brass/gold/brown.


I've played with it in photoshop, and nothing changes perception wise. I can see the darkness and the blue come out when I play with the gamma, but it changes back to my original perception once I remove that adjustment.

The colours I see are the actual colours that are there, so I'm happy to be in the 'white'/gold camp.
posted by flippant at 6:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


HEYYYYY going back to the original tumblr, with its yellowy background theme, just made me see it as blue-and-black for a split second. I'm maybe a little too stoked
posted by vogon_poet at 6:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can see some bluish tint in some white sections of the dress, but otherwise it's definitely white and gold for me, both on my Macbook and my Nexus phone.

Perhaps people's eyes/brains process certain colors in different ways. How do we know that others see the same colors we do? My girlfriend sees tangerine and custard while I see orange and yellow (not the colors of the dress in question, just a couple of the "in" colors for this year).

/read way too much Wittgenstein in grad school
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 6:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


wemayfreeze, it's less saturated than the Amazon pic, but still unambiguously blue and black for me (except for that brief moment of papal revelation on the other laptop).
posted by maudlin at 6:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's RGB 153, 102, 51 (nowhere near "black") and 153, 153, 204, a kind of periwinkle, which is an extremely common color for white to appear in heavy shadow (note how washed out the background on the right is).
posted by Fnarf at 6:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, what color blue are we talking here? Periwinkle or royal? I can see periwinkle but it looks like it's just bad lighting on a white dress.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The issue here is that the human eye is a relative instrument of measurement. Depending on environment, you calibrate to a sense of color balance, this is the "white point". People can see what they want.

In my past career running a Lighting Equipment Testing Laboratory, If you were in a dark room with a primary color light (Emitting just Red, Blue, or Green), walking back into the office could involve a bizarre walk into a brown, pink, or cyan world until your eyes shifted back.
posted by nickggully at 6:35 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ok weird revelation. It showed up as blue and black on my iPad, and White and gold on my iPhone.

What was the difference? F.lux. I disabled it, instant black and blue.

Weirdly, I renabled it and it stayed black and blue.

Wut.
posted by emptythought at 6:36 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


omg this apple really has a big pink blotch on it
posted by nom de poop at 6:36 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I will say that the "white / gold" and "blue / black" dichotomy was enforced from the outset in this post, the Buzzfeed article, and the original post. Thinking about it, I fall into one of those camps, but would never actually describe it as the pre-determined assignment that I was coaxed into giving it. If you came up to me and said "what are the two dominant colors on this dress" I would say one of those two options. I think that's at least part of the trick here.
posted by codacorolla at 6:36 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


i have the swatches and pixel values to prove it
posted by nom de poop at 6:37 PM on February 26, 2015


The top photo on the Buzzfeed link is also not the whole photo. The second photo shows the whole dress. The larger photo is more consistently blue for me.
posted by jaguar at 6:37 PM on February 26, 2015


Basically what it sounds like is that I'm in the camp of "seeing the literal colors without my brain trying to do anything to them in either direction".
Stubborn brain.
posted by jozxyqk at 6:37 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I work in animation/vfx and so my brain immediately went into overdrive when I finally managed to see white & gold.

When it happened it felt like the dress was in deep shadow in front of a brightly lit background. As if my brain had suddenly decided to reconstruct a false lighting setup based on the available information. When I see it black and blue (which is most of the time) it feels like it's a somewat blown out photograph of a dark dress in a regularly lit environment. When I see it white and gold it's as if the dress is located in a dark shaded area in front of a brightly lit background. There is nothing right next to it in the same area that would provide clues as to the actual lighting.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I see blue and black and that's it

This is like one of those magic eye puzzles only there's no cool spaceship hidden there
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:39 PM on February 26, 2015


Miko> Charlie don't surf was there first - I got bogged down in the thread, sorry.

LOL

Artists know stuff. There was a time when painting something like this would be sufficient cause to have you burned at the stake for witchcraft.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:39 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Somebody recheck Monica Lewinsky's dress.
posted by glhaynes at 6:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


GOD DAMN IT NOW IT'S BLUE! How did this happen? HOW!? It was white all day, now it's blue. Fuckfuckfuck. I don't know what to think.
posted by jazon at 6:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I saw it as white and gold at first, didn't get it, then I looked at it again an hour later and now it's blue and black and I can't unsee the blue and black and now I want help and I'm really worried.
posted by dis_integration at 6:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Orange really is the new black.
posted by wam at 6:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


If you read books by artists about color theory, they are self-contradictory and make no sense, but that's a pretty accurate reflection of human color vision.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ugh looking at it again I can see that it's blue, but not a deep blue, and the gold looks like if bronze went wrong somehow.

This is altering my brain because I now can't remember what the white looked like.
posted by angerbot at 6:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blue and bronze I guess. Black really, but with some bronzey touches. And blue, as blue as the Blue.

My fiancé sees white and gold. He's a theatre professor and says its to do with the lighting of the photo, that he's better at colors than I am, and that I should be the hunter and he the gatherer.

I feel as though I'm letting down my gender! Or disproving evo psych, one of the two.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:43 PM on February 26, 2015


It's become significantly more blue for me over time, but only a light blue with a little bit of purple innit. The so-called black has darkened but is still very much gold for me. I wanna see black but I cannot.

So that's what's up with me, y'all.
posted by wemayfreeze at 6:43 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is plainly blue and black and okay I didn't want to be the first one who goes there but I think we all know that only blood can resolve this.
posted by um at 6:44 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


For those citing the amazon picture of the blue-and-black dress: It also comes in white. Also pink and scarlet. The lace always seems to be black, though, which is baffling to me, because I cannot see that in the buzzfeed pic no matter how hard I try.
posted by baf at 6:44 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh my god I just polled a few friends and two are in the white/gold camp and two are in the blue/black. I see only blue/black. This is fascinating!
posted by misozaki at 6:44 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


For those who see black and blue, how does it compare to the black and blue in the image of the dress on amazon?

It looks exactly as I would expect that dress to look if it was photographed in an overexposed, brightly lit area. Possibly with a little bit of sun bleaching on the black, possibly not.
posted by sciatrix at 6:45 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Now on Twitter we're arguing about what SCP class this is.

This damn dress, y'all, nobody can agree on anything about it.
posted by cmyk at 6:45 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, you mutants who see white, what do you see in this image?

http://www.zompist.com/illo/definitely-blue.jpg

This is just a blown-up swatch of the dress.

MS Paint tells me that a sample point in that image is red 131, green 149, blue 189. Heck, here it is as a swath:

http://www.zompist.com/illo/just-blue.jpg
posted by zompist at 6:46 PM on February 26, 2015


it's white and taupe, or 'nude' color like pantyhose.
it's just in shadow with comparison to the background which makes it seem bluish.
i can see how someone might think for a second that it is blue and black or that the trim is gold but it is definitely neither of these. it's just in shadow.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 6:47 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK- gold and white only and forever. Then, I stood way back, off to the side, and squinted at the screen and as long as I look through my practically shut eyes at a distance, I can see black and blue. But only then. I shall investigate further when I get home, as I'm making a very mild spectacle of myself at work, what with all the walking, monitor tilting, stooping, and long-distance squinting. I'm open to black and blue but without the squinting I just don't see it. Zany!
posted by but no cigar at 6:47 PM on February 26, 2015


Oh thank god because I just came across this link on tumblr and had no context in which to put it. Sadly now I can't see the white/gold version, thanks to the power of suggestion I guess?

Holy shit on a stick.

If you have tabs on your browser and switch quickly between this and this you will switch from white/gold to blue/black.
posted by phaedon at 6:47 PM on February 26, 2015


At first all I saw was white and gold and then I tilted my phone screen 45 degrees toward the ceiling and reloaded the page and now I only see blue and black, even if I look with screen head on.
posted by rbellon at 6:47 PM on February 26, 2015


If you read books by artists about color theory, they are self-contradictory and make no sense, but that's a pretty accurate reflection of human color vision.

I think a lot of laypeoples' confusion about color theory comes from the difference between additive (light) and subtractive (pigment) colors. Some people can't get past the whole "But primary colors are red, YELLOW and blue! And yellow and blue make green!" thing when you're talking about RGB on a computer display.
posted by Foosnark at 6:47 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]




Well...
posted by Wordshore at 6:47 PM on February 26, 2015


Oh god this dress is the lamp
posted by Pronoiac at 6:48 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


The Tumblr user who posted the original has posted additional photos of the dress [SUPPOSEDLY THE SAME].


I am staunchly in the white and gold camp, and thus do not believe that this is actually the same dress, of course.
posted by amaire at 6:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


There's a strong gold object on one side and a black object on the other.

The black object, which is virtually continuous with the dress, bleeds into the ruffles and makes them seem black, but they never really look black to me.
posted by jamjam at 6:49 PM on February 26, 2015


I had both the buzzfeed photos of the dress on one screen and saw BOTH THE COLORS. I almost took a screenshot to show you, but then was like..........oh
posted by triggerfinger at 6:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Playing angel's advocate, I think there's no point in playing with swatches to prove that perceptions are right or wrong. This Mary Pratt painting is a rather warm way of painting a set of white eggs, and this is a rather cool way of showing white eggs, but we still perceive them as "white", right?
posted by maudlin at 6:50 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you have tabs on your browser and switch quickly between this and this you will switch from white/gold to blue/black.

Nope, they both show blue/black.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:50 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is it just me or is that kind of a hideous dress?
posted by jamaro at 6:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Holy shit, it's zompist! Where have you been the past 10 years!
posted by I-Write-Essays at 6:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Totally lost on where people see black in this image. Blue? Sure. Maybe blue, maybe a white dress in shade. But black? How?
posted by Hoopo at 6:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh gods. It switched back to white and gold. I tilted my phone screen again and watched it change to blue and black. It's staying there. For now.
posted by rbellon at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2015


Just wait until this becomes a TV show/movie/comic book/multi-media franchise empire, y'all.

The Amazing Treachery-Color Seemcoat?
posted by overglow at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


phenomenon, dammit mathowie.
posted by thisclickableme at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is a very faint blue and a golden brown. If I had to pick "Which it is closer to" I would say white and gold. I have looked at most of the black and blue images, but the dress remains white and gold.

Since one of the key factors to "see the other version" is apparently "believing strongly it is one version" I will now look at it again. And nope. White and gold. I acknowledge that this is probably just a very bad photograph of a black and blue dress, the image is white and gold. This either means I am immune to the illusion or cannot resist the illusion.

Now I'm kind of wondering if, myself and my fellow as the white and golds must flee to safety to avoid contamination by the infected, or the inevitable purges.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:54 PM on February 26, 2015




I've been staring at this dress all day, and I can finally see the 3d image if I cross my eyes just right.
posted by jefflowrey at 6:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Using Photoshop to make it blue/black doesn't mean it's blue/black. Somebody please use the original image and make it green/purple or something.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't believe there are posts on the gold and the green about this dress.
posted by danb at 6:57 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


So basically, this is just the Matrix A/B testing us, right? That, or one of the load-balanced "white and gold" servers has crashed.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:57 PM on February 26, 2015


How the fuck do you see white and gold there?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:57 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can somebody please explain how I went from staunch white to staunch blue with the same set of eyeballs, I'm freaking out.
posted by phaedon at 6:58 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


This (altered! color shifted!) image, designed to help us all see each other's perspectives, is the only image to make me deviate from my staunch black/blue stance. And even THAT looks to me like a completely, ridiculously overexposed image, which I would think looking at it might once have been blue.

Nothing anyone else has tried has made me see the weird gold thing. Given the current post by the photo taker demonstrating it is a blue and black dress, I conclude you are all colorblind.

In conclusion, llamas are great.
posted by sciatrix at 6:58 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Listen, the dress has become unstuck in color spectrum
posted by The Whelk at 6:59 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is a heavy-handed metaphor for all perception-biased yet emphatically-stated opinions on the internet.
posted by almostmanda at 6:59 PM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Now I'm kind of wondering if, myself and my fellow as the white and golds must flee to safety to avoid contamination by the infected, or the inevitable purges.

You say it like re-education camp and a cranial drill are bad things
posted by um at 6:59 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


The dress is whiter on the inside.
posted by maudlin at 7:00 PM on February 26, 2015


The internet is in serious turbo mode about this tonight and I love it. By bedtime I'm expecting a viral thinkpiece about colour and technology and a somber NYT editorial blaming the dress on Benjamin Netanyahu and a Slate.com article arguing that it's actually red and green.
posted by saturday_morning at 7:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think this has something to do with your eyeballs compensating for what it perceives as overexposed warm light coming in from the background.
posted by phaedon at 7:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


BTW: it's white and gold and it doesn't change. I presume the NSA are MITMing your .pngs.

Also: llamas were old the other week, when we tried to get Jimbob to mow his lawn with one.


You're welcome.
posted by pompomtom at 7:01 PM on February 26, 2015


FINALLY A RATIONAL EXPLAINATION
posted by The Whelk at 7:01 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


♩♫♪♭Too many cooks...♩♬♪
posted by droplet at 7:01 PM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


How the fuck do you see white and gold there?

I don't think anyone sees white there. They see a photo of a white dress in shade, which gives the appearance of a light blue. Gold/brown is definitely the color in the physical digital image, not black.
posted by Hoopo at 7:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


"We've secretly replaced phaedon's eyeballs with Folgers Crystals. Let's see if they can tell the difference."
posted by maudlin at 7:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


What's even more freaky is that if you stare at it for long enough, it goes from black, to blue, then "Rand Paul 2016!" appears.
posted by Wordshore at 7:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can I be in a third camp, for those who see it as pale purplish blue and slightly yellow tinged brown?
posted by tavella at 7:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


No. PICK A SIDE, tavella.
posted by desjardins at 7:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Omg my 2 year old sees blue and black what have you done to my baby
posted by Hoopo at 7:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


We're all gonna feel really silly in the morning
posted by The Whelk at 7:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


We're through the looking-dress here people!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The second buzzfeed article broke my brain and I finally saw blue/brown. Mind blown...
posted by pearlybob at 7:05 PM on February 26, 2015


This (altered! color shifted!) image, designed to help us all see each other's perspectives, is the only image to make me deviate from my staunch black/blue stance.

Well, sure, if you alter the colors then I will perceive a different color. But I will never change my mind on the original image (blue/black).
posted by desjardins at 7:05 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone sees white there. They see a photo of a white dress in shade, which gives the appearance of a light blue.

Fine. Here's what I don't conceptually understand. If a white dress was in shade, why would it appear to be light blue. When has that ever happened in life?
posted by naju at 7:05 PM on February 26, 2015


All the time?
posted by Hoopo at 7:06 PM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Okay I NOT GOING TO STARE AT A STUPID PICTURE OF A DRESS ANYMORE.

Time to get into my jammies and watch Grey's Anatomy.

Good riddance BLUE/BLACK dress.
posted by Jalliah at 7:07 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I believe it is highly likely that different people experience different levels of lateral inhibition. Having worked in a visual perception lab, I have been exposed to many illusions, and one thing that I learned as a result of that experience is that I consistently experience less lateral inhibition than other people. This is consistent with the differences in visual illusions that some researchers believe people with autism experience.

The super-warm lighting that may be influencing other people to perceive the dress as a sort-of-blown-out black and blue does not influence my color judgements as much. Averaging and sampling blocks of color in Photoshop gives me results consistent with my already-pretty-localized vision: it's light blue and a dull brown.

If you see a brightness value of about 40% of what your monitor can display and call that "black", you must be under the influence of some larger-spatial-frequency inhibition, because that shit is cray.
posted by Jpfed at 7:07 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


All the time?

I literally don't understand. A white dress in shade would be kinda greyed out, but not blue...? Oh god, what is even happening.
posted by naju at 7:07 PM on February 26, 2015


This sounds to me like bad gamma compensation in somebody's thumbnailer. It's not out of the ordinary for colors to change when images are resized, and proper display would depend on the target sizes and image libraries used: http://www.4p8.com/eric.brasseur/gamma.html
posted by (parenthetic me) at 7:08 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blue/black, never going back.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:08 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


you must be under the influence of some larger-spatial-frequency inhibition, because that shit is cray

Is that code-speak for "jaegerbombs"?
posted by Justinian at 7:09 PM on February 26, 2015


I don't think anyone sees white there. They see a photo of a white dress in shade, which gives the appearance of a light blue.

Nah, it looks white.

I checked.

With my eyes.
posted by pompomtom at 7:09 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's blue and black, which is the actual colors of the actual dress. What the hell is wrong with you people? Does this mean the apocalypse is starting?
posted by maxsparber at 7:10 PM on February 26, 2015


This entire thread
posted by The Whelk at 7:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


What manner of foul sorcery be this?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:11 PM on February 26, 2015


Sorry that was snarky. White in photos often goes blue.
posted by Hoopo at 7:11 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


So.. racism is based on an illusion?
posted by phaedon at 7:12 PM on February 26, 2015


You see white, like exactly the same as professional background of this site?
posted by Hoopo at 7:12 PM on February 26, 2015


It's orange. ORANGE, I tell you.
posted by Wordshore at 7:13 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's the color of television tuned to a dead channel.
posted by Foosnark at 7:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


*Picard voice*


IT...IS...A...WHITE...DRESS!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


A white dress in shade would be kinda greyed out, but not blue...?

It's in the shade - in a shop, under artificial light, in a poorly taken photo.
posted by carter at 7:14 PM on February 26, 2015


It's photonic jello!
posted by clavdivs at 7:14 PM on February 26, 2015


Just tried this in the office and 3 out of 4 people thought white/gold (including me) on the exact same screen, and 1 said blue/black.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:14 PM on February 26, 2015


It just switched on me since last time I looked. So bizarre.

I've seen optical illusions before that are triggered by staring at a particular color for awhile, and then it affects the way that you perceive other colors. I wonder if anything like that could be happening, based on colors previously viewed.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:15 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh my God, do the people who see blue use the MetaFilter professional setting? I do! And the people who see white use the normal blue setting?

Has MetaFilter blue BLINDED THE WORLD TO THE COLOR BLUE SO THAT IT LOOKS WHITE TO THEM?

HAS ANIL DASH BEEN RIGHT ALL ALONG?
posted by maxsparber at 7:15 PM on February 26, 2015


Usually by now there's, like, a MeFi member who just happens to be an expert in the field who posts the definitive explanation agreed upon by modern science that makes sense.

That there isn't makes me think that they intentionally unleashed this basilisk on us to cripple us while they seize the capital.
posted by cyberscythe at 7:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


*Picard voice*

IT...IS...A...WHITE...DRESS!


Yeah, this is the guy who orders "grey" tea that is actually orange. #NotMyExpert
posted by maudlin at 7:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was away from the internet today, so I missed the raging debate in real time, but I just want to say I'm glad it was mathowie who posted this important issue to MetaFilter because otherwise I don't think it could possibly have stayed up.

white and gold
posted by yhbc at 7:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The husband and I both saw white/gold, regardless of device or brightness settings. I asked the toddler what color the dress was and he shouted BLUE! (because toddlers shout everything). When I asked, "Are you sure the dress isn't white?" He laughed and shouted no again, like I was being incredibly silly.

Do I think my child, who is almost forty years younger than I am, is better able to see in low light? Yep.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 7:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


ALSO. Detergent to make your whites whiter? It's blue.
posted by Hoopo at 7:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Fascinating. I was just arguing with work colleagues at the office that it was clearly Blue and Black. Now that I'm home it's clearly White and Gold! There is a HUGE difference.
posted by jettloe at 7:18 PM on February 26, 2015




I first saw this on mathowie's twitter and saw a white and gold dress in bad lighting that gave it a bluish tinge. Then I saw other twitter discussions and pics of a blue and black dress. I got confused so I went back to the pic mathowie linked and now I saw it as blue and black. The exact same image.
I showed it to my wife and she said it was clearly white and gold.

I can't see anything other than a blue and black dress and don't understand how I ever saw It differently or how I can live with a woman who sees white and gold.
posted by rocket88 at 7:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


It was SO CLEARLY white/gold for me & then it switch to blue/black, and now I can't switch it back and my brain hurts a lot.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Artist's rendition of my mascot Ossian wearing the dress in the colors I see.
posted by jozxyqk at 7:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm in exactly the same boat.
posted by phaedon at 7:23 PM on February 26, 2015


I still see white/gold very easily when I look normally.

BUT if I cross/defocus my eyes enough, I see a blue/black blur. And if I look at the screen at an extreme angle, I can also see blue/black.

But straight on, focused? White/gold.

And yeah, I assumed at first this was a device/screen thing but thats been pretty thoroughly disproven so its definitely an optical illusion sort of thing.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


This post is going to start a fight and end being taken to the Orange.
posted by 4ster at 7:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


My wife just happened to be following this on different social media and she called me in to look at the *#%@% dress "which is obviously white and gold," which is what it looks like to me on all my monitors, except that on HER monitor it looks blue and black to me.

I showed her the gamma brightness trick and she's convinced the photo editor is munging the colors, even though that control only changes brightness.
posted by localroger at 7:25 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blue and black, no matter how long I look at it nor how many times I flip between it and other images or try to see white and gold, only blue and black. I've been staring at this damn thing for 20 minutes now on and off. Blue and black.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was absolutely incapable of seeing anything other than white and gold until I zoomed waaay out in my browser, at which point it became blue and black. Basically if you can convince your brain that the lighting is above/in front of the dress (washing out the color) or behind it (throwing everything into shadows), you can see it either way. Like your eyes are doing automatic white-balancing. But mostly it looks like inexplicable rage to me right now.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Uh...I don't get it. I see white and gold. Or, I can kind of see how the white isn't really white; the light on the photo is backlight, and the dress isn't well-lit, so I can see how it's an off-white...and I can kind of see how that could be perceived as blue, sort of.

I don't see a fucking speck of black on that dress. No idea what the hell that's about.
posted by zardoz at 7:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was very, very firmly in the white and gold camp until I started playing with the brightness on my laptop screen. Now I can flip myself back and forth using the brightness control. Bright screen: white and gold. Dim screen: blue and black.
posted by Serf at 7:27 PM on February 26, 2015


This imgur post fishbike linked to in the Ask thread is illuminating.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:28 PM on February 26, 2015


Anyone here paint? When you paint shadows on white, do you reach for the black? I mean it just doesn't look right, am I nuts?
posted by Hoopo at 7:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Kinda wonder if this has something to do with chimerical colors.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:29 PM on February 26, 2015


i'm with team white/gold. this image from vox removes all doubt.
posted by bruceo at 7:30 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Time to get into my jammies and watch Grey's Anatomy.

Is it Grey, though? Or is it an underexposed lilac?
posted by um at 7:30 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


If it looks like the light is coming from behind the dress, the dress will look white/gold (and like it's in shadow).

If it looks like the light is coming from in front of the dress, the dress will look blue/black (and like it's slightly sun-bleached).
posted by rue72 at 7:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was amazed, but tilting the screen worked for me! At first it was definitely white and gold (kind of off white, almost grey). Then I tilted my laptop screen back and it was definitely royal blue with black lace, exactly like the "real dress" in the other picture.

I flipped the screen back and forth a few times and it was absolutely consistent. I couldn't see blue with the screen one way or white with it the other way. In fact, before I tilted the screen I had gotten to the point of wondering if this was all a practical joke, where a bunch of people were playing along by pretending to see blue and black.

(Also, I had to remember to turn off f.lux, which is an app I use on my computer to reduce eyestrain, which it somehow does by making everything pinker. Usually I forget it's there).

I wonder if everyone's just looking at the picture from different angles? Crazy.
posted by Henrietta Stackpole at 7:35 PM on February 26, 2015


OH. MY. GOD. Thirty minutes later all I can see is blue/black. It's a very deep royal blue, too, not a bluish tint. I can't even see the white/gold anymore. Husband still sees white.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 7:36 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


AAIIGGHHH!! I'M BLIIIIIND!!!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:36 PM on February 26, 2015


I'm with Steve.
posted by rewil at 7:36 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Blue. And gold.
For fuck's sake.

i'm with team white/gold. this image from vox removes all doubt.


But... there's no white in those color swatches, either.
posted by hap_hazard at 7:37 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's an over exposed picture. Notice there are no real shadows anywhere and much of the mid tones behind the dress are just gone, and the blacks in the garments behind the dress are starting to turn gold.

It's just a crappy blown out photo of a blue and black dress.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 7:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was absolutely incapable of seeing anything other than white and gold until I zoomed waaay out in my browser, at which point it became blue and black.

By zooming out, you may be bringing features that had been too-widely separated for your visual system at the original scale close enough to affect each other.
posted by Jpfed at 7:38 PM on February 26, 2015


The camera is trying to balance brightness across the photo. Since the sunlit parts are already as bright as they can be, its only option was to brighten the hell out of the shadowed back of the dress. So, the unaltered appearance of the dress can only be darker than what we see. Much darker. The dress in this photo is blue and black, all the way.

The photo shows a light bluish-gray and somewhat darker tan, which is all I can see, but if I stand back and squint I can sympathize with those who see blue/black without consciously analyzing it.
posted by yath at 7:39 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


At work we changes the light balance and I could see how it'd be black and blue, but I couldn't see black and blue in the untouched image. Got home from work. Showed Mrs. eyeballkid. I'm like gold and white amirite? She's like yeah. Then I look at it again AND IT'S FUCKING BLACK AND BLUE AND WHAT THE FUCK.
posted by eyeballkid at 7:39 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Lilac blue and dark-brown shading from a weathered bronze to off-black (which is a trick of the lighting and exposure, mostly). Definitely neither white nor gold. I have a decent monitor that's colour-calibrated and gamma-corrected for a neutral white point and very good colour discrimination. I'm also autistic; I have a degree of brain-weirdness that makes it pretty much difficult-to-impossible to not see details rather than the big picture...I always see trees, not a forest, and I've never in my life been able to see one of those "Magic Eye" illusions, which is something that may or may not affect my perceptions.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 7:39 PM on February 26, 2015




OK WTF. The first hour or so I had this thing on constantly. Different devices, different lighting situations. It was always white-light-blue and gold. Went to watch Portlandia, then opened the picture again. Instantly, dark blue on black exactly like the picture linked earlier. If I stare long enough the blue starts to fade and the gold starts to show up, but nothing like what I was originally seeing.

I'm scared.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't understand. There's a dress in that photo?
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:42 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


THIS IS THE WAR OVER WHAT RALPH WIGGUM MEANT ABOUT SLEEP ALL OVER AGAIN. IT'S GOING TO TEAR US APART.
posted by sparkletone at 7:45 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


This is sad.
... I called up Dr. Jay Neitz, PhD, a color vision researcher at the University of Washington. I sent Dr. Neitz the link to the Tumblr post and asked him to tell me what color he saw. "White and gold," he told me flatly. "What is it you're asking?"

After I explained that I saw the dress as blue and black, he said he wanted to ask one of the students working in his vision lab for a second opinion. "Blue and black," the student replied. There was a long pause on the other end of the phone.

"Why is this happening? I don't know," Dr. Neitz told me. "This is one of the most fascinating color vision things I've seen in a long time." ...

Dr. Neitz specifically studies individual differences in how people see, and he'd never seen anything like this.

"In general, you're going to see differently than the person next to you. But this is a huge difference. I mean, this really takes the cake." ...

"Now I'm going to spend the rest of my life working on this," he told me. "I thought I was going to cure blindness, but now I guess I'll do this.
posted by maudlin at 7:47 PM on February 26, 2015 [101 favorites]


Remember that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where they want to design a program to destroy the Borg and come up with a shape that's a paradox, but trying to analyze it will fry their circuits and kill them all?

Apparently humanity's version of that shape is a dress.
posted by dry white toast at 7:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I see light blue and bronze/gold. I can't see black. I can't see white. in other pictures people have posted, it's clearly blue and black, but that main picture? Can't see any white at all. Even allowing for shadows, it's definitely blue. I can almost wrap my head around the idea of the black being faded so much it looks gold-ish, but I just don't see it in the picture. Where's the white?
posted by Mchelly at 7:50 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's white and gold. How can gold be black? What the hell is wrong with you people.
posted by bibliowench at 7:50 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend and I disagree over colors all. the. time. We are apparently incapable of understanding each other, like people on two sides of the cilantro debate. Just ... impossible. No way to get across to the other one that it's a disgusting soap plant from Planet Nasty that shouldn't be considered a condiment or ingredient or even edible.

...

... anyway I saw this image on my phone and I said to myself, "I do not understand what the shit people are talking about. This is a blue and black dress. I don't even understand that there's another way to view it."

and then the voice in my head whispered, "Hand her the phone."

so I did, and I said with no prompting, no indication that this was a point of contention (any more than our typical discussions about color, that is) and said, "Hey, what color(s) is this dress anyway?"

"Uh, white and ... mustard? Or maybe white and gold?"

I've never felt more like throwing my phone to the ground while simultaneously feeling validated that OH MY GOD THERE ARE OTHERS LIKE US who can NOT agree on color.

except by "others" I apparently mean "the entirety of the internet"

and so began the 10-minute discussion on what color the dress "really" is versus what we're trying to describe it as, and what colors the literal pixels on the screen are showing, and comparing to colors around the room, and in the end neither of us flipped sides or even came close to a neutral position of understanding but eventually we DID agree that it was probably about time to catch that most recent episode of Better Call Saul before this dress debate blew up into something larger.

but seriously

blue and black
posted by komara at 7:50 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Okay, so I just realized that if I scroll down so I can only see about a third of the original image, it looks clearly blue and black, but if I can only see the top third, it looks clearly gold and white.

Does that happen for anyone else?

I have seen it both ways before, and can sort of force myself to switch between perceptions (and saw it first as white and gold and still lean that way).
posted by overglow at 7:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


My husband and older son see blue and black. Me and my younger so see white and gold. We have formed sides and are convinced that the other side is lying.

Our dog is freaked out by the yelling.
posted by bibliowench at 7:55 PM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Ok, here's a weird thing...my local news picked this up and did two minutes on it. The picture they showed of the dress was white and gold. But, when I go and look at the picture online again, it's blue and black.

W

T

F

?????
posted by Thorzdad at 7:56 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


So what if it's about the lumen of the screen, and how one's eye adapts to that? Like, not the pixels, but your eye color-correcting for what the screen usually shows.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:56 PM on February 26, 2015


For the life of me, I can only see white and gold. I've tried phone, tablet, and desktop with various colour webpages visited in between visits to the dress.
Why can I not see blue and black? It's like those infernal Magic Eye things!

I WANT TO BELIEVE
posted by gox3r at 7:56 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


We're told that images are weak things, subservient to reality. And then someone shows you a picture of a dress.
posted by codacorolla at 7:56 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


White/gold team is gaslighting the blue/black team.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:56 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


OH JESUS I JUST STARTED SEEING IT AS BLACK/BLUE

HELP
posted by capricorn at 7:57 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


This dress seemed so obviously blue to me that I was sure that this was some weird joke to fool people into thinking they're going mad. Ha ha, let's all pretend that this dress is really white and gold!

Then I asked my boyfriend what color it was. He said white and gold. Now I just don't know what to think. ._.
posted by jess at 7:58 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


THIS IS SERIOUSLY MAKING ME UNCOMFORTABLE, EVEN THE BOTTOM IMAGE IN THIS LOOKS BLACK AND BLUE NOW.
posted by capricorn at 7:58 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's going to be super fun when the world of print adversiting references this in about five months
posted by The Whelk at 8:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I see cornflower-blue and deep chocolate brown. My roommate sees white and mustardy gold.

I think there may be something to the rods-and-cones theory mentioned above, though, even if the explanation given in that theory itself sounds like bunk - meaning, I think there may be some truth to the idea that "blue and black" is tied to night vision in some way. Because: my white-and-gold-seeing roommate said he's had LASIK surgery, and that his night vision worsened after having it - while my own blue-and-black(ish) night vision has been sharpened by years of working backstage in dark theaters and trying to read scripts (and ascertain different hi lighter colors) in very low LED light.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think when this thread quiets down, I'm going to go through it and find everyone who said (or implied) that there was something wrong with people who saw it differently than they did, and I'm going to find a Greasemonkey script that will put a little asterisk next to every comment they make from here on out.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


So I just dragged my husband downstairs and forced him to look at the dress. He said it was white and gold and so I showed him the blue and black 'evidence' and now he is angry that someone clearly put up a filtered picture to mess with his head.

I may also be divorced.
posted by Mchelly at 8:01 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


- I have discovered a truly marvelous solution to the colored-dress paradox, but alas this margin is too small to contain Keith David fighting Roddy Piper
posted by kid ichorous at 8:01 PM on February 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


I saw white/gold for a second as I scrolled onto the image, then instantly it was blue/black and has remained that color for me.

Only one basilisk (FAQ) joke so far?
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:01 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I see blue but now the other stuff is gold and won't go back to black. I have hot tongs and if my eyes offend me one more time I shall pluck them out.
posted by maxsparber at 8:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


We're going to wake up tomorrow and find out Fort Knox is empty, aren't we.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Wired's explanation. (Neitz is a little more composed now.)
Light enters the eye through the lens—different wavelengths corresponding to different colors. 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,” says Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington. “But I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” (Neitz sees white-and-gold.)

Usually that system works just fine. This image, 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.” (Conway sees blue and orange, somehow.)
posted by maudlin at 8:03 PM on February 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


I think when this thread quiets down, I'm going to go through it and find everyone who said (or implied) that there was something wrong with people who saw it differently than they did, and I'm going to find a Greasemonkey script that will put a little asterisk next to every comment they make from here on out.

....because hyperbole based on something clearly innocuous is worthy of tagging people with vague suspicion for all time?

Seriously, eyes are eyes. I'll pretend to get fighty over just about anything stupid if someone pretends to be fighty back, but it doesn't mean that I actually think you people who see white are broken or stupid or whatever. Hell, I've been pretend fighting with my spouse for the last two hours and I am clearly not the only person in this thread doing that. I think those people wrong about the color of the dress, but it's a freaking dress.
posted by sciatrix at 8:05 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the Wired article linked above:

At least we can all agree on one thing: The people who see the dress as white are utterly, completely wrong.
posted by cooker girl at 8:06 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Okay, so I just realized that if I scroll down so I can only see about a third of the original image, it looks clearly blue and black, but if I can only see the top third, it looks clearly gold and white.

Does that happen for anyone else?

I have seen it both ways before, and can sort of force myself to switch between perceptions (and saw it first as white and gold and still lean that way).
posted by overglow at 10:54 PM on February 26 [+] [!]


That's where I am now, too. Was solid white/gold for hours but now can see it either way by starting from the top down or the bottom up.

Julianne Moore and Mindy Sterling arguing about it on Twitter has been my favorite part of it.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:07 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well unlike you all, I don't see color.
Maybe you're the problem.
posted by bibliowench at 8:08 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is there some lady laying face down in the background?
posted by dirigibleman at 8:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Testing on Mrs. eyeballkid and I, it seems that after viewing one of the cropped images posted previously in the thread we both can't unsee a black(brown) and blue dress. eyeballkid jr. on first glance saw the brown and blue.
posted by eyeballkid at 8:10 PM on February 26, 2015


BJ Novak is killing it too.
posted by maxsparber at 8:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


400+ comments whaaaaaa?

I don't get why this is being treated like such a mindblowing controversy -- it's either black/blue in bright light or white/gold in shadow, and there's not enough context to say for sure. It's a common basis for visual illusions -- see for instance the checker shadow illusion, or the colorful Rubik's cube variant.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:12 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah the deal seems to be that people seeing black lace on a deep blue dress are interpreting the image correctly. It is indeed a black and deep blue dress according to the person who owns the dress. That said, neither the actual deep blue of the dress nor the black of the lace are actually in the digital image according to the color swatch. Sooo...yeah. Everybody's right!
posted by Hoopo at 8:13 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


... and Virginia Hughes has her story up at Buzzfeed to complete the trifecta and close the circuit. Not rods and cones, folks, but the brain confabulating like fuck.
“We are always making decisions about the quantity of light that comes into our retina,” Reiner said.

This light, called luminance, is always a combination of how much light is shining on an object and how much it reflects off of the object’s surface, he added.

“In the case of the dress, some people are deciding that there is a fair amount of illumination on a blue and black (or less reflective) dress. Other people are deciding that it is less illumination on a white/gold dress (it is in shadow, but more reflective).”

This is just like the famous Adelson checkerboard optical illusion. [Follow the link to see this: very cool!] ...

OK, but why do different people’s brains interpret the light differently?

Our vision is heavily influenced by so-called “top-down” processing, John Borghi, a cognitive neuroscientist at Rockefeller University, told BuzzFeed News. Top-down processing “begins with the brain and flows down, filtering information through our experience and expectations to produce perceptions.”

Each person brings a different set of experiences and expectations, as well as attention levels and particular eye movements.

For example, what you looked at just before you looked at the dress could influence the way your brain perceived it, Borghi added. “It could also be that you’ve seen dresses (or fabric) with the same texture or shape before, which could also affect your perception.” This general phenomenon is called priming.
I've seen my fair share of "black" clothing that had a colour cast even when new (blue black or brown black or green black) that showed that colour even more as the material faded from washing and sunlight. So when I called it a "rusty, faded black" instead of "brassy brown", I was trying to talk about "black" clothing in a world where "white" eggs are green or blue or grey or caramel. But I recognize that it isn't a true, deep black, even when I called it black and blue as a shortcut.
posted by maudlin at 8:13 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


NO, Hoopo. None of your Canadian diplomacy and peace here! I will not have it!

BLUE AND BLACK FOREVER
posted by komara at 8:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think there may be something to the rods-and-cones theory mentioned above

I really, really doubt that rods and cones are the right level of analysis for this problem.
posted by Jpfed at 8:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]




I'm with those who saw it one way on that Buzzfeed article and genuinely thought they were playing some sort of prank. (I'm on a PC monitor, mid-afternoon, dim sort of indoor light.)

So I read all the way down, baffled at what an odd joke to play because it was clearly white/gold and how on earth could you see any black in that?

And then I accidentally hit my scroll-to-top button when I reached the end and shrieked out loud because now it was blue/black and I felt like i'd gone mad.

I played around a few minutes and determined that if i look at something bright/white first (outdoors, the white on the side of the Buzzfeed page), it was white/gold but if I looked at something dark/dim (like the matte black stand of my PC monitor (and held my hand in front of my eyes so that I couldn't see the brightness of the page before it loaded), it goes blue/black.

I'm going to sound barking mad when my neighbour asks me later why I yelled out loud and woke him up and I have to say 'BECAUSE THERE WAS A DRESS ON THE INTERNET AND NOW I AM INSANE.'
posted by pseudonymph at 8:15 PM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


On my carefully calibrated monitor I see blue and black and my wife sees white and gold. Adamantly. I wonder if part of it is just experience. I've been a photographer for 20 years and have spent massive amounts of time on both lighting and color correction (digital and analog), so I'm very sensitive to colors.
posted by primethyme at 8:16 PM on February 26, 2015


(A much more interesting question imho: What color is a tennis ball? Green? Yellow? GRELLOW?!)
posted by Rhaomi at 8:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Whoever solves this has to explain how do I, and others, start with white/gold and end with black/blue. I .... don't know how it's possible. When I saw white/gold it could only be white and gold and I couldn't force myself to see black or blue at all.


...

It's now black and blue and I can't reverse it.
posted by olya at 8:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


NO!

STOP IT!

It was white and gold, then black and blue, and now, after a short car journey, it's back to being white and gold.

I can't deal with this.
posted by dis_integration at 8:18 PM on February 26, 2015


Team White and Gold, all the way. I tried the tricks mentioned to help it change (go back and forth to the BuzzFeed page, scroll a bit down on the photos, etc.) but: White and Gold. Has never changed for me.

Unrelated, but I'd like to know: when did MeFi change to a pitch black background with gold links?
posted by shortfuse at 8:19 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, I still see it as blue. Maybe in the bright light of the day tomorrow it'll be white. Fuck if I know.
posted by jazon at 8:20 PM on February 26, 2015


This is like the Civil War, if people were randomly assigned sides that changed periodically for no good reason.

You can guess the uniform colors. That's right, they're all the same but people see them differently.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


If Sarah Palin wore this dress while taking a position on bike helmets she could destroy us.
posted by humanfont at 8:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


I really, really doubt that rods and cones are the right level of analysis for this problem.

Yeah, but that's the way the person who described the theory claimed it was happening, and I was only using that as a reference so people would remember that theory itself. I was discounting the actual theory but saying "but they DID say that people with better night vision see it as blue and I think there's something to THAT bit."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:21 PM on February 26, 2015


I was white and gold (well, light blue and gold, but I was ok with seeing it as white too), and then accidentally scrolling -- only on some pages -- or looking at just the skirt I can see blue/black.

I'm also finding the Rubik's cube illusions VERY DISTURBING.
posted by jeather at 8:22 PM on February 26, 2015


my mother thinks olive and bronze, which is something new to me. i think white and gold.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:23 PM on February 26, 2015


I was like 'it's white and gold and how can anyone see otherwise' and then I realised I was sitting in a shady room with bright white sunlight out the window
posted by Quilford at 8:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


And for whatever it's worth, I have mild astigmatism -- very mild in my right eye (I use regular contacts there) and mild in my left (toric lenses). But I have been wearing my glasses tonight. So that's another vote for people with poor night vision seeing gold and white.
posted by jeather at 8:24 PM on February 26, 2015


My wife and I are seeking counseling after Dress Stress 2015.
posted by The Potate at 8:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am generally considered to be blind as a bat. I have looked at multiple photos in many ways and all I can see is white and gold. I have no idea how one could possibly interpret that as blue and black, but I'm willing to believe that you do.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


And coming back to it after three hours all I can see is gold and white. I no longer trust my own senses.
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:26 PM on February 26, 2015


Cover the picture with your hands and then slowly drop them. For me, the dress is white and gold as my hands descend. When I raise my hands, the dress is blue and black. With one hand covering the dress, I'm getting white and gold above my hand, and black and blue below my hand.
posted by ShooBoo at 8:27 PM on February 26, 2015


Helen Keller just came back to life and started a twitter account.

She says it looks black to her.
posted by yhbc at 8:27 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


How can you possibly see white? The picture is framed by the white background of the page so there's a reference white RIGHT THERE for you to compare the dress to and see that it can't possibly be white.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


For me it flipped from white/gold to blue/black after getting up from the computer for a couple minutes and walking down a hall with no lights at night. My monitor is colour calibrated and I use the professional white scheme.
posted by sardonyx at 8:29 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's this night vision bit? How does one test night vision?
posted by Hoopo at 8:29 PM on February 26, 2015


I'm glad I'm already divorced. I have a feeling this would have been an unpleasant conversation.
posted by desjardins at 8:30 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mentioned anecdata to the effect that I see it in blue and black, but that I have excellent night vision. My partner sees nearly as strongly that it's gold and white and has terrible night vision.

Helen Keller just came back to life and started a twitter account.

She says it looks black to her.


I know this is facetious but my god, I'd kill for a woman of Keller's astuteness with politics and articulation of social issues given access to Twitter. If she thought pamphlets were good, wait till she gets ahold of blogging....
posted by sciatrix at 8:31 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


For example, what you looked at just before you looked at the dress could influence the way your brain perceived it, Borghi added. “It could also be that you’ve seen dresses (or fabric) with the same texture or shape before, which could also affect your perception.” This general phenomenon is called priming.


Yeah, the first time I saw it I thought, definitely white and gold. Then I saw the link showing side-by-side images of the dress in the pic and the actual black and blue dress. Now I'm seeing it as black and blue. But it seems like it changed slowly to black and blue for me - also I was messing around with lighting in my F.lux app.
posted by jenh526 at 8:31 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


jeather, I have astigmatism and iffy night vision but it has always been a blue dress for me

on preview, Hoopo, how do you feel about driving at night? Less safe or the same amount of safe as during the day?

white/gold people, is the white you're seeing actual 'professional mefi background' white, or a blueish white that makes you think the dress is a white dress in shadow? And, if it's the latter, how do you feel about the highlights on the dress demonstrating that there is a light source illuminating it?
posted by halfsquaretriangle at 8:31 PM on February 26, 2015


If you want to see it as white and gold, let only the top of it appear at the bottom of your screen, and slowly scroll down.

If you want to see it as blue and black, let only the bottom of it appear at the top of your screen, and scroll slowly up.

Also, I'm surprised more colourblind people haven't shown up yet. We deal with this shit every day you basic ass motherfuckers.
posted by skwt at 8:31 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


How can you possibly see white? The picture is framed by the white background of the page so there's a reference white RIGHT THERE

Shadows are a thing. Now do black! Because there's nothing resembling black on the dress in that image
posted by Hoopo at 8:31 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I get white and gold. But if I tilt my head 90 degrees away from my monitor and look from the corner of my eye, I get black and blue.
posted by cazoo at 8:32 PM on February 26, 2015


How can you possibly see white? The picture is framed by the white background of the page so there's a reference white RIGHT THERE for you to compare the dress to and see that it can't possibly be white.

You're mixing up pixels on a screen as a perfect reference (and they aren't always that perfectly perceived) and the way we interpret the pixels in front of us to think "a red apple" or "a white egg" in the real world.
posted by maudlin at 8:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Did you guys notice the dancing gorilla?
posted by FJT at 8:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


You Know What Color This Dress Is? 'FUCKING UGLY'
I've looked at this dress for about ten minutes now, waiting for it to change color before my eyes so that I could write this post that my editor texted me to do and there are only two things I can come up with:

1. This dress's color story is all sorts of fucked up.

2. The dress's true color is "fucking ugly."
You got it, kid. That's the story. You're a natural news hound content creator.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:33 PM on February 26, 2015


It looks like a badly lit photo of a white+gold dress. So yeah, the white of the dress (as pictured in the photo) is not the pure white of the page background, but if asked, I'd say that's a white+gold dress.

white/gold people, is the white you're seeing actual 'professional mefi background' white, or a blueish white that makes you think the dress is a white dress in shadow? And, if it's the latter, how do you feel about the highlights on the dress demonstrating that there is a light source illuminating it?

Yes, it's a blueish white for me. I'm not sure what you mean by the highlights.
posted by shortfuse at 8:33 PM on February 26, 2015




I see white in shadow. Or I did. Now I see blue. So I don't know about the highlights anymore.

I also wonder if people who do a lot of photography are more accurate in recognising ways in which photos can be misleading?
posted by jeather at 8:34 PM on February 26, 2015


blue and black, ...with the black turning to semi-gold in certain light. how is it possible to see white?
posted by Chuffy at 8:35 PM on February 26, 2015


"I mentioned anecdata to the effect that I see it in blue and black, but that I have excellent night vision. My partner sees nearly as strongly that it's gold and white and has terrible night vision."

Exact same in my household so that's two points of agreeing anecdata therefore case. closed. #teamblueblack
posted by komara at 8:35 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


AIEEEEEEE MY HUSBAND SAYS WHITE AND GOLD

I MARRIED AN ALIEN
posted by Jacqueline at 8:36 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Gold/whitishBlue

We can agree that the Llamas were black and white?
posted by 724A at 8:37 PM on February 26, 2015


I have solved it, by trying to view this on the work machine, where the relevant images are blocked as spam.

(well, that and the fact that I assume all you blue/black people are just having me on)
posted by pompomtom at 8:37 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


No babies will be born nine months from today.
posted by The Potate at 8:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [40 favorites]


How blue is the blue you're seeing? Like if I look at this side-by-side photo that was probably posted before several times, the left dress to me is def blue and black, where as the right dress is def (shadowy blueish) white and gold. (I'm late to the thread, so apologies if this has been visited many times.)
posted by shortfuse at 8:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see white/gold (on two different monitors, one in bright fluorescent light, the other in darkness), unless I start looking about 30 degrees off to one side. Then it starts shifting to blue/black.

After multiple time going back and forth from this thread to the buzzfeed post, I feel like I notice it getting slightly blue/blacker each time, which is a little odd.

I do see the "white" part of the dress as actually a bit blue in the photo, but as others are saying it's a "white object in shadow" blue. My mental image of where this photo is taken is near the north outer wall of a brightly lit store, where there's a window that's providing most of the light illuminating the lower part of the dress with north light (generally bluish).

Oh god, it's turning bluer again.
posted by LionIndex at 8:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh Jeeesus. It's switched back now. I can't take it.
posted by jettloe at 8:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


My roommate is from Spain and doesn't speak English all that well and we are having a big argument over this.
posted by phaedon at 8:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wait, the people who are seeing white and gold-- what do you mean by "gold"? Like, yellow? Or brownish-bronze? Why has everyone converged upon the descriptor "gold" (which doesn't come to mind as an obvious color, for me, anyway)?

I'm blue and black all the way and cannot see the image any differently.
posted by ms.codex at 8:39 PM on February 26, 2015


I and my 8 and 3 year old daughters are all team gold/white. My wife is adamantly black/blue. 5 year old son will be quizzed first thing in the morning.

I have tried everything mentioned in this thread and I cannot see the original picture as other than gold and white.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:39 PM on February 26, 2015


What Colors Are This Dress?

Good English speak this Buzzfeed?
posted by RogerB at 8:39 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


What's this night vision bit? How does one test night vision?

How well do you see at night or in low-light conditions? For example, I very rarely find that there is so little light that I can't see well enough to navigate, even at night with the blinds drawn and no lights on.

On the other hand, my partner finds that in the same conditions where I go "dim, but I can see where the furniture is and I can navigate to bed", they can't see anything and everything is completely dark. This is distinct from myopia or other vision issues. Night vision is bad for, mmm, direct, focused vision--what you'd use to read with--because the rods in your retina are more tightly distributed around the edges, and there's actually a spot in the center of your retina called the fovea that doesn't contain any rods. (It's also blurrier because rods aren't as good at fine-partitioned processing as cones. Rods also are no good for color vision, which is why color vision falls off when it gets dark.) Night vision IS generally relatively good for peripheral vision, though.

I don't know quite enough about visual perception to really evaluate the color theory EmpressCallipygious linked--I work on acoustics--but I do find the possible link to be really interesting.
posted by sciatrix at 8:39 PM on February 26, 2015


Black and blue.
posted by chance at 8:39 PM on February 26, 2015


I don't get why this is being treated like such a mindblowing controversy -- it's either black/blue in bright light or white/gold in shadow, and there's not enough context to say for sure. It's a common basis for visual illusions -- see for instance the checker shadow illusion, or the colorful Rubik's cube variant.

Because it's an actual photograph of a person, and wasn't obviously set up as an optical illusion. And because of the millions of photographs of people that have been posted online, this is the first one that was widely (and very quickly) recognized as exhibiting this behavior.
posted by Foosnark at 8:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


How blue is the blue you're seeing?

It's a gray-tinted cornflower blue.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wake him up Pater Alethias! This must be settled tonight!
posted by The Potate at 8:40 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Ha! Just stood up and looked down at emergency backup laptop for no particular reason and it had changed to gold and white again . Sat down and looked across and it's blue and blackish. Stand up again and it's still more blue and blackish on that computer, although a little less saturated. My conclusion: I can't force it. It's always a surprise. I'm delighted!)

(And THANK GOD my emergency email query about the dress colour was just answered correctly. I didn't think I'd care that much.)
posted by maudlin at 8:40 PM on February 26, 2015


I'm team black and blue and I see quite well in the dark when walking but not so well when driving. I'm also nearsighted.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:42 PM on February 26, 2015


I just realized the entire internet spent the day celebrating net neutrality by watching loose llamas live and arguing about the color of a dress.

That's just . . .wonderful. Truly & perfectly apt.
posted by barchan at 8:43 PM on February 26, 2015 [37 favorites]


For the first 30-40 minutes I was strongly dark blue+black. It had been dark for a few hours on the east coast. The last few times I've looked at it I could see it as white+gold (or light dusty blue + gold). But that comes with my brain telling me that I'm looking into very bright mid-day sun, with the front of the dress lying in the shadow that the dress is casting. This makes complete sense with the idea that you'll interpret it differently depending on the assumptions you make on the ambient illumination.

What's wild is that I can't make it go back to the blue+black I first saw. It's like the part of the mind that decides what general general assumptions I will use to guide the interpretation of specific color stimuli is really not subject to my will. I wonder if it's possible to use exercise or use feedback to put it under more conscious control, like some folks do to be able to wiggle their ears?
posted by benito.strauss at 8:43 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Because it's an actual photograph of a person

oh my god, it's a person?!
posted by desjardins at 8:43 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait, the people who are seeing white and gold-- what do you mean by "gold"? Like, yellow? Or brownish-bronze? Why has everyone converged upon the descriptor "gold" (which doesn't come to mind as an obvious color, for me, anyway)?

More brownish-bronze. Like a dark yellow. I can't help you with why "gold" stuck, but I don't really have a problem with it as the descriptor.

Gee, I'd really like to see this turn blue and black. Not happening for me.
posted by shortfuse at 8:43 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait, the people who are seeing white and gold-- what do you mean by "gold"? Like, yellow? Or brownish-bronze?

Like between those? Like the color of gold.
posted by saul wright at 8:43 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Blue & black, it's a hideous, somewhat faded dress, I can't see it any other way on any monitor, phone or tablet in any circumstances and I am terribly nearsighted and need new glasses badly. Also I have never seen anything in a magic eye picture in my life and only once through a microscope have I briefly glimpsed anything but swimmy dots. And I like toast, which is probably equally relevant.

but I don't believe in the white dress any more than I do in magic eye pictures. I guess microscopes are real. Maybe.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:44 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is almost as upsetting to me as when I learned the Irish language doesn't really have a word for orange despite it being one of the colors of the flag, which is actually the second most upsetting thing behind discovering that the Irish word for arm is the same as the Irish word for hand and the Irish word for leg is the same as the Irish word for foot.

They don't have hands or feet, people, they just have arms and legs that go all the way down until pinkies and toes sprout out of them.
posted by maxsparber at 8:45 PM on February 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out how to reboot my eyeballs, so I can see white and gold again.
posted by phaedon at 8:46 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


(On posting, basically what LionIndex said. Fast moving thread.)
posted by benito.strauss at 8:49 PM on February 26, 2015


NO, Hoopo. None of your Canadian diplomacy and peace here! I will not have it!

BLUE AND BLACK FOREVER


If I recall correctly, you are a guy who does a lot of photography. I think you'd probably have experienced whatever this effect is enough times to have no problem identifying what is going on in a given photo color wise. Me? I spent 25years in a place where I would see pure white snow covering everything in the full spectrum of natural day and night light 4 months out of the year (it looks blue a lot). So we're seeing different things when we look at this image.
posted by Hoopo at 8:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wasn't there recently a post of the blue about the McCollough effect? Maybe this is some weird variant?
(Read the widipedia link at your own risk. Be warned!)
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 8:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to figure out how to reboot my eyeballs, so I can see white and gold again.

Confess your sins to an ordained priest, then wash your eyes in a 50/50 mixture of holy water and the blood of a one year old, pure white lamb. (It's okay if the wool has a slight bluish tint.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:49 PM on February 26, 2015


I am baffled--I've looked at this on two separate desktop monitors, on my phone, on a tablet, I have tilted it one way and another,viewed it in bright light and low light, scrolled up and down, gone out for a walk and come back, had a stiff drink--and I can see nothing but a sort of lavender blue and brownish bronze-ish gold, consistently and without any variation. Weird, weird, weird.
posted by Kat Allison at 8:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait, maxsparber. . . what?! There's no orange, hands or feet in Irish? That's extremely upsetting. But now I'm wondering about the erotic argument James and Nora Joyce would get into over the color of this dress.
posted by barchan at 8:53 PM on February 26, 2015


I see a shiny periwinkle blue and dark grey dress whose colors are washed out by the reflection of the gold-colored walls from a very strong light source in front of it being reflected in a mirror behind it.

I think it's the mirror in the background that's killing everyone.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:53 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


All I know is this must have something to do with those aliens on Ceres.
posted by zardoz at 8:54 PM on February 26, 2015


How well do you see at night or in low-light conditions?

Fine. Driving was always fine at night; I don't bump into things in low light. Pitch black is an issue but that's the same for everyone.

And I see white and gold. When I see the actual dress elsewhere all I can think is that's some weird camera fuckup because ain't nothing royal blue or black on it in the photo.
posted by Hoopo at 8:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blue/black people: I see the blue too! BUT when you say "black", are you saying "I literally see brown, but I infer from the lighting that it is actually black" or are you saying "I literally see black and don't know why you just mentioned brown other than this thread is full of crazy people"?
posted by Jpfed at 8:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Cornflower blue and rusty black, and I fear and can't and don't want to see anything different.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:55 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I'm TeamWhiteAndGold and when I watch the video embedded in this tweet, the dress goes from blue+black to white+gold. Same for others?
posted by shortfuse at 8:55 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Guys, I think I figured it out.
posted by phaedon at 8:57 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone's insisted that it's a pure, deep black. Faded black/rusty black/bronzey-brown is the usual range.
posted by maudlin at 8:58 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


this dress is going to be the best ever 2015 Halloween costume
posted by threeants at 9:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


I see a schooner.
posted by mazola at 9:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reporting from the eastern front of Tumblr
the masses have decided it is blue and black to much grumbling
back to you Pam
posted by lineofsight at 9:01 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay I have to log my experience.

Looked at it on my iPad 2 at 6:40pm. It was definitely white and gold.

Looking at it now on my desktop after an hour and a half of tai chi. I see blue and black.

I think it has to have something to do with different screens but others are reporting that makes no difference. So I guess I'll blame the tai chi until I hear otherwise.
posted by parallax at 9:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think this has something to do with the perceived color temperature of the environment in which you are looking the photo.

Notice that for me, the dress has become convincingly black/blue as it has become nighttime here on the west coast. If you really want to blow your noodle and you have a Mac, run Flux and have it descend into Sunset color temperature. The black/blue effect at least pulls back, and returns to white/gold, and once again the dress looks like it is in a shadow.

Perhaps we are pulling information from outside the screen and this has something to do with an effect on our eyes produced by prolonged exposure to monitors.
posted by phaedon at 9:02 PM on February 26, 2015


I don't think anyone's insisted that it's a pure, deep black. Faded black/rusty black/bronzey-brown is the usual range.

Oh. This is the first time I've heard a blue/black person actually characterize the black (most of the time when someone is characterizing their perception of a color here it's about the blue/white disagreement). If that's all then I think this is just coming down to how people map percepts to words, which is much less interesting than an actual difference in perception.
posted by Jpfed at 9:03 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm 100% sure the most interesting part of this comes down to the people questioning their own sanity.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:06 PM on February 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


the Irish word for leg is the same as the Irish word for foot

This is true in Japanese too. Very strange and confusing to me, but I find your "they actually don't have feet" explanation quite compelling.
posted by thefoxgod at 9:06 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Perhaps we are pulling information from outside the screen

Sure, but we've run this experiment here with groups of people all in the same room looking at the same monitor and we see different things (and others have reported similar things).

This is definitely a brain/thought/perception thing independent, to some extent, of environment.
posted by thefoxgod at 9:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah I think I'm right this has a lot to do with ambient color temperature. I cannot tell you the cause of the distortion. But here I have posted a version of the black/blue dress but added a heavy CTO (orange) filter. You can at least see how much the black/blue is lifted. No changes to contrast, saturation or anything of the like.

Comparison
posted by phaedon at 9:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


TOP TEN ANSWERS TO WHAT COLOR IS THIS DRESS

10. White and gold

9. Blue and black

8. Regret and magic, with berry and cocoa overtones

7. Whatever Amanda Palmer doesn't think it is

6. Ethics in game journalism

5. Mu

4. Blue. No, yell-- AUUUUUUUUGH

3. A 9-volt battery

2. Fuck your color normativity

1. A plate of beans
posted by zompist at 9:12 PM on February 26, 2015 [24 favorites]


Oh my god its blue and black now. What is happening.
posted by thefoxgod at 9:12 PM on February 26, 2015


Blue and black, can't see anything else. Show it to my wife who is sitting in the dark watching TV with blue-blocker glasses on, and takes them off and sees white and gold.
posted by aydeejones at 9:13 PM on February 26, 2015


I've seen it both ways, on the same monitors. I have a dual screen PC with two different brands of monitor, when I see it as black and blue on one monitor, it's always black and blue on the other.

Like others, I suspected I was being trolled by a site that rotates two images back and forth, but I've saved it as a jpg to my own HDD named after the colour I've seen. When I'm seeing black and blue, I can flick to and the second image is also black and blue. Vice versa when I see it differently.

Duplicate file checking shows it is the same image I have saved both times.

I thought it was very obviously black and blue and that the white and gold people were pulling my leg, or seeing a different image which the webmasters had served them. Then I went outside into the bright sunlight to collect my mail, came in again... white and gold!

Something to do with dark adaption and perception. Interesting!

posted by Mokusatsu at 9:14 PM on February 26, 2015


phaedon - I see white+gold so for me your comparison image looks like the same colored dress but the right image shows a dress with purer white and not the blueish white of the original. (Not saying this should be a surprise to you. Just saying.)
posted by shortfuse at 9:15 PM on February 26, 2015


I think we're going to see more people joining TeamBlueBlack as night creeps around the world and artificial lighting nudges perceptions just a bit more. (I know there will be perceptual holdouts: I just expect the proportions to shift a bit.)
posted by maudlin at 9:15 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Comparison

Also on West Coast in the dark; both of those images look like a white and gold dress in different light. The white on the one on the right looks to have some red or brown.
posted by Hoopo at 9:16 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean I looked at it repeatedly on this monitor in the same tab on and off for an hour, it was always 100% white/gold.

Now I looked back, same monitor, same surrounding light, same chair... and its clearly blue/black. Completely different looking.
posted by thefoxgod at 9:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


What I find interesting about this is not the dress or the picture but the fact that I stared at the picture for what felt like forever unable to figure out what color it was, then clicked over to twitter and EVERYONE was talking about it then over to facebook and ditto and then I heard my husband on ventrilo talking to his guild friends and they were talking about it too. Then I found myself getting really sleepy and nodding off on the couch. I fell asleep and had one of those weird half-dreams that was all about the color of the dress.

My theory: it's alien technology meant to prime us for THE INVASION.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


This reminds me if when we found out some people, after bathroom duties, stay seated to wipe and some stand, and nobody knew there were two options and that some people were doing the other option, and it was so perplexing that the sit-wipers just seemed monstrous to the stand-wipers and visa incomprehensible versa.
posted by maxsparber at 9:18 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


So I'm TeamWhiteAndGold and when I watch the video embedded in this tweet, the dress goes from blue+black to white+gold. Same for others?

Yes! Yes! Ok, the disagreement makes intuitive sense to me now-- it's the assumption that each side makes about the default brightness of the image. And I see what people mean by "gold"-- it really is a kind of bronzy glinty yellow.

Still can't see nothin but blue/black in the original image, though.
posted by ms.codex at 9:20 PM on February 26, 2015


You know what might help? What is the background? I have no idea what's going on in the background of this image

stand-wipers

AKA the folks leaving little bits of TP willknots on the bathroom floor
posted by Hoopo at 9:22 PM on February 26, 2015


If that's all then I think this is just coming down to how people map percepts to words, which is much less interesting than an actual difference in perception.

Is it people being very literal in describing the color they see, vs people describing the color their brain interprets the dress to actually be? Take the example of a woman in a white wedding dress, taken under tungsten lighting with poor white balance. In a very literal sense, you could say that the dress is orange, but I'd think that any reasonable person could use the cues in the rest of the image to realize that it's actually white. Similarly in this image yes, if you look at the literal rgb values of the black fabric, it has a yellowish tint to it. But for me, in full context, it seems obvious that the actual fabric is black. Do the people who are calling it gold really believe that this is a photo of a dress with gold fabric, or just that the lighting is making the black fabric look gold?
posted by primethyme at 9:22 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


maxsparber - Also the debate over which way to put in the toilet paper roll in the holder. Or whether you take the sheets of toilet paper and fold them nicely before doing the business, or just grab willy-nilly.

The metaphor sorta breaks down though, because we're seeing a lot of switching here, and I wonder if anyone ever goes from sit-wiping to stand-wiping or vice versa.
posted by shortfuse at 9:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


OMG clearly blue and black. The black is debatable since the color is muddy but the blue color is CLEARLY not white. White is the color in the top right corner. All the gold and white people are "inferring" what the color should be and assuming the dress is in shadow because LOL clearly the white in the top right is a diff color than on the dress. Blue and brown is acceptable answer, even blue and gold, even GRAY and gold, but you have to be making inferences to think the blue color is "actually" white. The blue people are just seeing the direct color on the screen.
posted by pravit at 9:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blue and black.
In a telephone conversation with Business Insider on Thursday evening, McNeill explained that the picture was a dress was worn to her friends' wedding. ... The dress was worn by the bride's mother. ... McNeill plays guitar and sings in a band named Canach that plays what she described as "traditional Scottish folky music." Her band played at the wedding. She actually saw the dress and told us definitively what color it really is. "I got to the wedding and the mother was wearing the dress," McNeill said. "Obviously it was blue and black."
posted by maudlin at 9:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


If I look at the lower left corner only (blocking out the rest of the photo with dialog boxes) I can kinda see why people are saying blue and black.

But the dress is ROYAL blue and this is a very exposed photo so the blue looks like pale blue (or some whites when backlit and in shadow) with a very faded warm black lace trim.

Wait, has that tumblr border background always been yellow? vs photo alone vs the buzzfeed white background and I downloaded the photo to play with it in PS so it was always cropped.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:24 PM on February 26, 2015


It just looks like a shitty picture of a blue and black dress to me. Y'all just never seen a shitty picture before, or what? 'Cause that's all this is.

Two things:
1. The photo is overexposed, i.e. washed out, so both the blue and the black are lighter than reality.
2. The photo was taken in daylight mode under tungsten lights, which puts a yellow cast over the black and cancels out some of the blue.

That combination of factors means that if the first thing you notice about the picture isn't that it's a shitty picture, you might see it as white and gold. But it isn't white and gold, and I can't get myself to see it that way.

(I have seen aspiring photographers go completely bonkers trying to get colour balance just right. Look at a too-green print for too long and it starts looking okay, but then you show it to a fresh pair of eyes and they're like, "Way too green." But really it's too cyan. It's always that fucking cyan.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is not a super advanced way to show the issues with the lighting, but I uploaded a .gif showing the balancing of the original photo to show something closer to its original color.

http://i.imgur.com/9bJ0TZ0.gif

This is made of 4 stages -- 1st is the original, 2nd is after photoshop auto color correction, 3rd is after photoshop's auto tone correction, and the last is a manual white balance.
posted by mangasm at 9:25 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


People, you are going to have to make a decision, or I won't ever be able to choose which shoes to wear with this dress.
posted by datawrangler at 9:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I just printed this out and it looks black and blue on paper. When I look at the dress on the screen it's white and gold. I don't know what any of this means. Deal with it.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 9:27 PM on February 26, 2015


Wonder how many crap op-eds will be written using this to describe liberal/conservative split.
posted by shortfuse at 9:27 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


As a bunch of people have said, I don't see any white on it, but I definitely don't see any black.

Have set it as my desktop background to see if that ever changes.
posted by mantecol at 9:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just printed this out and it looks black and blue on paper. When I look at the dress on the screen it's white and gold. I don't know what any of this means. Deal with it.

You're probably out of yellow ink.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I feel like I've taken part in something today.
posted by carter at 9:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


duvatney: It is a bluey-white and gold, but if you squint the gold turns black and the bluey-white becomes blue.

Whoa!!!
posted by Kevin Street at 9:29 PM on February 26, 2015


Atom Eyes: "Huh. All I can see is a sort of large, rugose cone with tentacles and a layer of viscous semi-fluid at its base."

eponysterical
posted by symbioid at 9:30 PM on February 26, 2015


You're probably out of yellow ink.

The readout shows that it's still half full. Although I'm not going to claim my Canon all-in-one is some kind of piece of precision test equipment.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 9:33 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is it people being very literal in describing the color they see, vs people describing the color their brain interprets the dress to actually be?

I think that is a crucial difference here, yes. But I should note that it the idea of the fabric being black but super exposed is counterintuitive to me and certainly not an automatic impression.

Do the people who are calling it gold really believe that this is a photo of a dress with gold fabric, or just that the lighting is making the black fabric look gold?

I only came to believe that this is black fabric because of evidence outside the picture ("the girl who posted it said that it's black irl"). People saying that it's black right away, without thinking about it and without other evidence, have some software running in their heads that I don't have.

When I describe the automatic impressions I have, it looks like a very light-blue and gold dress.
posted by Jpfed at 9:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]




The dress has become progressively bluer and blacker as the night has progressed. I cannot switch it back to "white"/gold.

That's now what is up with me. Y'all.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ok so now I think this has something to do with the relatively yellow color temperature of the sun and of most warm, indoor lightbulbs.

Let us presume the dress is white. Now look at a white wall or object in your room lit by a warm light source. The difference is obvious; the wall is warmer. So you return to the dress, and your brain says this is blue.

Now if you turn off any light sources and use a light source something that is a little colder, like say the flashlight on your iPhone, and shine it onto the monitor, the white gold theory becomes much more believable again.

Because the blueness of the white in the image is complimented by the blueness of your light source. And your brain says, these are both white.

So in effect, as the night has progressed chances are you are relying on indoor light sources that are in fact increasing the black/blue effect, because they are so warm, they push the whites of the image into the blue.
posted by phaedon at 9:35 PM on February 26, 2015


White is the color in the top right corner.

That's a light shining at the camera. That is not what a white colored object looks like in all lighting conditions
posted by Hoopo at 9:36 PM on February 26, 2015


The blue/black people need to be ultra-specific as to what shade of blue/black they are seeing. Are you literally seeing American-flag-blue. Or are you seeing an over-exposed photo with a pale shade of blue that you are assume to be dark blue?

Getting a bit testy here because I spend all day describing colors and oh my god it gets tiresome what's the point of it all
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:37 PM on February 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Similar to Jpfed above. My in-full-context impression is that it's a white and gold dress. But I still don't see any black at all. I can't even convince myself logically that there's black there and it's lighting, etc. The dress itself may be black according to the owner, but looking at the photo again, I'm baffled it has black.
posted by shortfuse at 9:38 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I asked my baby
“Hey, what colour’s this dress?”
Her weird-ass answer
Kind of made me distressed

Now I believe in miracles
And a miracle has happened tonight

But if you’re thinkin’
'Bout my garment
It don’t matter if it’s
Blue or White

They print the picture
From their screens and their phones
The experts argue
It’s our rods and our cones

Some see black and some see gold
And they all think
That you are wrong
And they’re right

But if you’re thinkin'
'Bout my garment
It don’t matter if it’s
Blue or White

I am tired of this Dressgate
I am tired of this strife
The saturation you misstate
That makes you question your life
I ain’t scared of your query
Filters, pixels and tones
I ain’t scared of my theory
Leaving me all alone

Perception
Of shades
And striations
Causing grief in
Human relations
It’s a lace war
On a global scale
Weighing in on both sides
An Internet fail
See, it’s not a precision
Night vision
Division
What’s seen last
Or contrast
May make your decision
If you’ve seen the bright
Or the duller
I’m not going to spend
Life mad from a dress colour

Don’t tell me you agree with me
This is worse than that time with Magic Eye
But if you’re thinkin'
'Bout my garment
It don’t matter if it’s blue or white

If you’re thinkin'
'Bout my garment
It don’t matter if it’s blue or white
posted by ilana at 9:39 PM on February 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


Having seen both versions:

It is not a case of vocabulary or whatever. It looked WHITE before. Now it looks BLUE. Not like kinda-white or lightish/gray/blue. Its a huge difference. And the black/gold difference is similar. It was a very clear yellowbrown/gold before and now it looks black.
posted by thefoxgod at 9:41 PM on February 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Wondering if I'll have a similar change of vision tomorrow morning. An extra bottle of Hoponius Union has not done the trick for me.
posted by shortfuse at 9:42 PM on February 26, 2015


It's a pale shade of blue on top, with a medium blue near the bottom.

I have embarrassingly, spent almost an hour staring at this thing trying to figure it out. I can't even come close to seeing white/gold. Half of humanity, possibly my half, is clearly broken.

I'm curious if anyone who's spent a lot of time doing photography, especially digital color correction for exposure and white balance, "sees" white and gold. I've logged so many hours in Lightroom that all I really here is "exposure down 1.5 stops, white balance to shade".
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:42 PM on February 26, 2015


Wait wait wait wait wait. From the Business Insider article that maudlin posted:
After seeing the Facebook thread, McNeill decided to share the picture on a fan page she has on Tumblr dedicated to a woman named Sarah Weichel. [...]

Weichel is a talent manager who represents several YouTubers including Hannah Hart. "The crazy thing is, I actually have nothing to do with the post. It's literally just a fan account of me, so my name and my photos are all over the account," Weichel said. "I actually don't have anything to do with it. ... But I have been getting a ton of phone calls and emails tonight."[...]

The situation was even weirder for Weichel because her client, Hart, was just announced as the star of a new television series on Thursday.
So the Tumblr page that set this off was a fan page for a talent agent for YouTubers? How is that even? And by the way, that new television series is the Electra Woman and Dyna Girl reboot.

What is anything anymore? When historians write about this period, I bet that mass insanity due to ergot poisoning will be a popular hypothesis.
posted by mhum at 9:43 PM on February 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


TWinbrook8 : It's a cornflower blue (blue with a purple tinge, not green, screw you, Crayola) that looks more like a pale violet when the "black" moves closer to bronze, and a more saturated cornflower blue when the "black" is closer to charcoal.

Speaking for me, there is no conscious assumption that bluish pixels = precise shade of blue (or, as has happened a couple of times by surprise so far, a white with a lot of blue shadowing to it). The couple of times I saw a medium gold and white was really fucking trippy, I'll tell ya.
posted by maudlin at 9:44 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


maudlin: "Hey, guys, I can finally see the white and gold!"

Or as I posted on Twitter...

"I viddied that the eggy-weggs were blue and black." image macro...

Also this actual quote from the book that I found while looking up info... Seems appropriate:
"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen. "
posted by symbioid at 9:46 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes. I saw white with a tiny hint of grey/blue and a dark gold trim this afternoon, using a combination of natural and artificial light. Now at night, I see a greyish purplish cornflower blue (but it is DEFINITELY not white) with a kind of dark rusty bronze/brown trim. I'm curious what I'll see in the morning.

To those who're asking if we're just describing what we're consciously extrapolating the real-life color to be...no. That dress looks blue and brownish to me right now.
posted by Ragini at 9:47 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's white and gold for me, but if I squint like duvatney suggested, it turns blue and black. Have to really scrunch up your eyes, though.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:48 PM on February 26, 2015


Cornflower blue, I agree. Shit, I've gone over to the dark side now. And the upper half of the bodice is medium brown. (I did just turn on my CFL lamp though. Am bringing my laptop outside while it is still light, but overcast)
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It must come down to experience with photography. Because it baffles me that anyone naive to the ways photography can fail would think there is specifically black on the dress instead of dark brown or medium brown. People saying the dress has black on it are performing a mental transformation on the image that (in choosing exactly how much light is too much) must be informed by experience.
posted by Jpfed at 9:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Before i Ate it was Gold & Yellow. Came back after eating and it was Blue & Black. ???
posted by Dreamghost at 9:50 PM on February 26, 2015


Wordshore is right -- the only color that rhymes with porridge (sort of).
posted by philip-random at 9:52 PM on February 26, 2015


I was talking with a friend on gchat about this. He's out of the country, on slow-ass Mexican Internet, and hadn't heard about this phenomenon until I messaged him. We agreed on one result at first. We talked for a bit, including both of us taking a color aptitude test. About an hour later he said he went back to the image, and it was a totally different result. He was dumbfounded even. The results on both of our color aptitude tests were good, but his was 50% better than mine. I'm leaning towards this being a mass hallucination and a sign of the second impact, or an optical illusion dealing with changes in light sensitivity.
posted by codacorolla at 9:53 PM on February 26, 2015


Oh fuck it changed. damn it. It was easier to believe I was being trolled.
posted by GuyZero at 9:54 PM on February 26, 2015


I always wondered how the second american civil war would start.
posted by Dreamghost at 9:56 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


We're going to wake up tomorrow and find out Fort Knox is empty, aren't we.

*checks*

Nah. Still full of black.
posted by aws17576 at 10:13 PM on February 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Blue and black here. I saw a cropped picture on Facebook that made me at least see where the white and gold people were coming from for like a second, but when I looked away and looked back it was blue and black again.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:16 PM on February 26, 2015


The % of Buzzfeed visitors seeing blue & black just went up by 1 (from 27% to 28%). I wonder if that's because people now know the dress is actually blue and black, or because of the change in time of day/lighting, or random variance, or what.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also it kind of blows my mind that so many see white and gold!
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:18 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Don't concentrate on the dress- look at the background. See how fuzzy and faded out it is? It's an overexposed picture with bad color balance. In this trio, the picture with the color corrected background give the correct dress color.

Also,

GREEN!
posted by happyroach at 10:19 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, here's another data point (as if it's needed at this stage)...

From the start the dress color was, strictly speaking, a very pale-grayish-blue and brownish-bronze - which I decided to interpret as most likely a white and gold dress in shade, which would give it an allover bluish/darker tinge. At the same time it was perfectly obvious to me, seeing the exposure-adjusted version, that it was almost certainly an overexposed and washed out picture of what was actually a blue-black dress. But still, strictly speaking, it was very pale-grayish-blue and brownish-bronze...that my mind wanted to see as a white/gold dress in shade.

Then I re-calibrated my monitor (using one of these), which I hadn't done in ages. The result of that was that (a) I could see that over time my monitor had very slightly drifted toward a warmer tone, which calibration brought back toward a more neutral white-balance; and (b) although I still saw the original image of the dress as, strictly speaking, very pale-grayish-blue and brownish-bronze, the display's colors had shifted just enough that I could imagine interpreting the picture as an extremely washed-out shot of a blue and black dress instead of a white and gold dress in cool shade.

But still, strictly speaking, the original image was always very pale-grayish-blue and brownish-bronze. The rest was clearly how I chose to interpret it.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Obligatory relevant xkcd
posted by Maecenas at 10:28 PM on February 26, 2015 [19 favorites]


Yes, I color-balanced it in PS as well, with the dark eyedropper on the lace trim so it would read as black but I still did not get royal blue for the basic dress color. It's a crap photo; it would take more than color-balancing to get the true [sic] color.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:28 PM on February 26, 2015




Don't concentrate on the dress- look at the background

Holy shit yeah that's it. Those 3 pictures. I scrolled up and bang, original is blue and black. All it took was the background context a little bit more defined.
posted by Hoopo at 10:32 PM on February 26, 2015


It must come down to experience with photography. Because it baffles me that anyone naive to the ways photography can fail would think there is specifically black on the dress instead of dark brown or medium brown. People saying the dress has black on it are performing a mental transformation on the image that (in choosing exactly how much light is too much) must be informed by experience.

I work as a photo digital technician, which is like running the computer on a photo set. I basically color correct and work with digital photos all day as they are captured. I was on a job today, doing color critical product work on a very nice, very calibrated monitor when someone emailed me this image and asked me what I thought. Obviously it was white and gold, another guy I was working with agreed, and I filed it under Memes I Don't Get and went back to work.

Then I go home and see these side by side images on Metafilter and it's obviously blue and warm black. My monitor here is calibrated as well. When I saw it earlier I would have sworn it was white and gold.

IMO the illusion is the blown out background, your brain is compensating for that so you perceive the foreground as in shadow and therefore cooler in color temperature. For me, if I hold my hand over the blown out upper right corner, I can make myself do the switch and see it the other way again. The low quality of the file is what is making it so ambiguous as well. I feel like if this was high res it wouldn't work, the details are obscured just enough to throw it off a little more.
posted by bradbane at 10:32 PM on February 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


....and now it's gone again. Fuck this fucking image I'm going to bed.
posted by Hoopo at 10:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


ah! In happyroach's link to the three images, focus on the reddish wooden panel to the lower right of the dress in the second picture, the dark blue picture. Then go back to the first. It's blue and black now. I can hit the back button on my browser, then click the link again and the original is white and gold again. I look at the red wood panel in the second image and back again at the original, it's blue and black.

Making it all worse is that if you use he color dropper tool or whatever it's called in PS the colors are not black or dark blue
posted by Hoopo at 10:48 PM on February 26, 2015


The black is the sort of faded black you get when you wash black clothes a lot of times. Not a pure black.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:54 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel extra happy on days we're obsessing collectively about something silly instead of something tragic.

Well my fam and I were wandering around in the woods today and almost missed this completely. I saw white/gold because the glare in the corner is telling me the dress is backlit. I can see blue/black in various versions where it's cropped and put side by side but I still only see white and gold in the original. Even after seeing the photo of the woman next to the bride where you can see it's a blue dress.

I repaired my brain by thinking "bad photo and lighting make dress look different than it is."
posted by bleep at 11:03 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


actually now i can see both. kind of like Magic Image.

i made a huge discovery though. if i scroll from the top of the image down, then the dress looks white. but if i scroll from the bottom of the image up the dress looks blue with black lace.

my real question is what color must that effing jacket be?
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 11:05 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


It must come down to experience with photography. Because it baffles me that anyone naive to the ways photography can fail would think there is specifically black on the dress instead of dark brown or medium brown. People saying the dress has black on it are performing a mental transformation on the image that (in choosing exactly how much light is too much) must be informed by experience.

I'm a photographer who had the opposite experience — I feel like I always saw the 'true' colors, the colors shown in various swatch images that people put together. It has changed somewhat as my eyes have adjusted to the nighttime indoor color temperature, but I never got the 'back and forth' effect that some have, and even now can't see anything resembling black in the image.

I choose to interpret this as my photographer's eye being better at seeing 'true' colors.

I also choose to interpret this as a sign that I'm on the side of good and that all will bow before me (us) when the killing is done.

YMMV
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:08 PM on February 26, 2015


Adobe is now getting into the act. (Note: in Adobe's world, medium brown = black)
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:13 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Isn't black fabric dye just a mixture of other colors?
posted by Brocktoon at 11:26 PM on February 26, 2015


The scrolling from the top down vs bottom up thing is legit.
posted by saul wright at 11:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


- LED monitors: try varying your viewing angle

- scrolling: the background lower-right B&W table may act as a visual cue for interpretation of the foreground information
posted by polymodus at 11:58 PM on February 26, 2015


What the hell happened to America while I was asleep?
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:09 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Clearly this shows that color is a secondary quality.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:13 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I looked at it, and it was white and gold. I looked at it again, and it was blue and black. My third look saw it return to white and gold. At that point, I decided I needed my husband's input. I shoved the iPad between his eyes and his laptop screen and demanded to know what colors he would use to describe the dress on the screen. He answered white and gold. I agreed. I walked back into the living room, sat down, and looked at it again. Blue and black. ARGH!

Hours have been spent agonizing over the perceived colors of that damn dress. I can change my perception of it by scrolling up and down or covering it with my hands, and even though I knew the first time I looked at it that it had to be blue and black (because generally only the bride wears white to a wedding), I still saw it as white and gold. It is driving me mad. My husband, on the other hand, only sees it as blue and black now, doesn't care why he saw it as white and gold the first time he looked at it, and refuses to look at it again.

Also, I have pestered my husband with it so many times I'm now afraid to go to sleep for fear of being bludgeoned to death with my iPad while he screams "BLUE AND BLACK! IT'S BLUE AND BLACK!" This dress has been the destroyer of household harmony.

I have to force myself to see it as blue and black. My brain insists it's white and gold.
posted by Orb at 12:22 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


White and gold. I can see no blue or black at all in that photo. Very odd.
posted by metagnathous at 12:26 AM on February 27, 2015


I wish I had a twin sister, so that tonight we could make ourselves dresses in the two colour schemes and then go out tomorrow and fuck with people's heads.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:27 AM on February 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


I feel like we're all about to turn into Drazi... Surprised nobody has posted this yet!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:34 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


One last stab at this: It's the way the question is framed.

With the over exposure and back lighting in the crappy photo, in my world at least, a white dress with goldish-yellow-tan trim would be more likely guess than a pale-to-medium blue dress with medium brown trim because the latter combo is a bit dated.

So originally I said white/gold. But I always knew the actual colors in the photo were pale blue-ish and light brown-ish. Looking at it on different sites with different backgrounds, the first one on buzzfeed (predominantly white page) still looks like tan trim to me.

The confusion for me was people saying they saw blue and black which I took to mean royal blue and rich black, the fabric colors in the catalog photo. Be sure to read the comments. Because even when it is roughly color-balanced, it's not royal blue and the trim is not rich black. It is a darker periwinkle blue and at most, faded black. Even after balancing it doesn't come close to the colors of the catalog photo at all on my monitor.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:41 AM on February 27, 2015


*sits quietly in her lonely slightly-purplish pale blue and brown corner*. I have extremely good color perception, so maybe that's got something to do with it. If I look at the top or bottom half-inch isolated, I can sort of see where people are getting white/gold vs blue/black, but the color it looks to me is the same color range I get when I dropper it.
posted by tavella at 12:44 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some people see an underexposed blue dress. Others see the true purpose of the Intarwebs a.k.a. Catnet.
posted by fraula at 12:45 AM on February 27, 2015


> "*sits quietly in her lonely slightly-purplish pale blue and brown corner*. I have extremely good color perception, so maybe that's got something to do with it."

I am almost completely colorblind; the world basically looks to me like the way the angels see things in "Wings of Desire".

I see the same thing you do.
posted by kyrademon at 12:58 AM on February 27, 2015


I have a feeling a two sided dress resembling this is going to be a popular Halloween costume if anyone remembers this.
posted by emptythought at 1:01 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Are we even sure its a dress.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:16 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


The reason there are two populations of people with sharply different perceptions of the dress's color (call them whitegolds and the blueblacks) is that there are two different interpretations of the illumination cues in the photo:
  • Whitegolds see the bright light in the background and conclude that the front of the dress is in shadow, which implies its true colors are somewhat lighter than they seem—so (slightly bluish) white and gold.
  • Blueblacks understand that the bright light in the background is the reflection of the camera's flash in a mirror and conclude the front of the dress is very brightly lit, which implies its true colors are somewhat darker than they seem—so blue and very dark (maybe black).
posted by The Tensor at 1:26 AM on February 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


*sits quietly in her lonely slightly-purplish pale blue and brown corner*

Nah, you're not that lonely there, since a grayish pale blue and a grayish brown is what's in the picture. People seeing black or white are just making shit up. I wouldn't trust them about anything. :-)
posted by effbot at 1:26 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else see the man in the gorilla suit in the background?
posted by chavenet at 1:36 AM on February 27, 2015


I mean, I can sort of see how people are getting gold instead of brown, but black? White? How is it even possible to see those? I'm still seeing blue and brown in both of these, for example.

(My spouse, of course, sees a black and white dress.)
posted by kyrademon at 1:39 AM on February 27, 2015


chavenet: "Does anyone else see the man in the gorilla suit in the background"

No more than we did a few hours ago, no ...
posted by barnacles at 1:47 AM on February 27, 2015


Timon and Pumbaa weigh in.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:59 AM on February 27, 2015


(Correction. My spouse sees a GOLD and white dress. Or did. She now sees a blue and black dress.)
posted by kyrademon at 2:02 AM on February 27, 2015


If only all of humanity could at least agree on the whimsy of this debate, resulting in world peace. At least for a short while.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:19 AM on February 27, 2015


As I watched the internet become consumed with this today, I felt I could understand how it occurred. At first and for the whole of my afternoon, I saw the "white" and "gold".

I also saw a huge amount of colour cast and what I interpreted as a lifting of shadows in the foreground to offset against a heavily over exposed background. I'm proficient in photography and have seen odd tonality and colour shifts occur in somewhat similar images I've taken and worked on. Add various light sources with different colour temperatures and the original scene can become unreproducible.

I checked it on a couple of screens and devices and rooms with different lighting, ambient and artificial, and it read the same. I clipped the catalogue image of the black and blue dress and played with it and was able to recreate the white from the blue, but not bring in much of the gold for the black. Just playing with shadows, colour tints and curves, contrasts and temperatures.

Then I went out for Friday drinks.

Long story short. Wanting to be the first, I drug out my tablet. Opened the appropriate pages and looked at the image to prep for the fun. It was blue and black. Eh?

One of my friends had followed the events of the day. She'd see it and it'd always been blue and black for her through and through. So I showed her the image I'd set up. White and gold. Her face dropped. She whipped her phone out. The image was already loaded. White and gold. It had been blue and black an hour earlier. It was blue and black for me at that moment. White and gold for her. She was stunned. I was enjoying it. The blokes were all "meh" saying it was clearly white and beige and had always been. What was it a picture of? Testosterone...

I'm home now. The image is comfortably back to the heavily colour-casted white and gold.

Eh?
posted by michswiss at 2:26 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Brown/Gold or Purple/Blue/Grey are a category issue that's not worth arguing about - I mean which one you choose might depend on your eyes/brain but I have no quarrel with describing what I see as a yellow brown and a light greyish blue.

To me the mysteries are:
- some people really don't see blue in the photo?
- some people really see black in the photo?

I understand how you could come up white or black consciously trying to "reverse engineer" the effect of the light and camera but my eyes don't really do that just looking at a photo. Not in that way anyway.
posted by atoxyl at 2:35 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


(I'm guessing this has been suggested above, somewhere, but:) Since the same individuals are seeing different combinations on the same image file at different times, could part of it have to do with what you were looking at just before seeing the image? And then after your glance, you're just locked in to whatever you first see.

If you first stared at something pitch-black for a minute, you might be more likely to see the dress as white? Like that optical illusion where you stare at an image, and then a wall?
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:36 AM on February 27, 2015


I understand how you could come up white or black consciously trying to "reverse engineer" the effect of the light and camera but my eyes don't really do that just looking at a photo. Not in that way anyway.

Yeah, that's me exactly. I could call it brown instead of gold, but there are neither black nor white in the picture (tried it on a macbook, and chrome on android). It's a pale blue and it never changes.

I'm worried this means y'all have gone to the matrix and I've been Left Behind.
posted by hap_hazard at 2:49 AM on February 27, 2015


I see blue in the picture, but I interpret it the same way I interpret all this blue snow.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:55 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


I see white and gold/brown. The white has a bluish tint, but to me that looks like a camera misjudging the color temperature and applying a white balance that shifts the entire image into the blue. I'm utterly unconvinced that the image of the blue and black dress is the dress pictured.
posted by dmh at 3:17 AM on February 27, 2015


Is the dress in the shade, backlit by bright light, or is it in the bright light itself? If your brain assumes the former, it's white and gold, the latter its blue and black.
posted by Nothing at 3:33 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


This morning it was white/gold, now it is Blue/Black. I am quite surprised at how significant the colour shift is.

It's not like suddenly I see the light bluish white as a bit more blue, it's nearly violet. It's a deep dark blue.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:34 AM on February 27, 2015


The lace looks black to me because... that's how black lace would look I guess. The top part screams "curved black shiny/sheer sheer thing catching light", not "bronzish thing going to blackish in shadow" to me. And the way the lace looks in shadow (going down along the left part of the dress) versus the way it looks more in the light to me also just looks like something that's actually black. Maybe I could put it as: because the shadows from the dress and in the small contours of the black part itself aren't really deep enough for that much color change on something that is naturally bronze/tan, I see it as black fabric under an ugly light in a cruddy (underexposed-then-corrected? ianap) picture.

TLDR the color is coming too much from the direct light, not the fabric.

Also along the left side on the skirt, the lace looks pretty close to the black of the prints on the rack behind it, as I think shows up in this clipping. I wonder if that looks a natural-ish picture of part of a non-blue and/or non-black thing, to some of you.
posted by nom de poop at 3:34 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Based on the past day of watching this roll across my various feeds, I now have a good idea of which people I would do mushrooms with.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:39 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


White and gold. I can never see the blue and black.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:51 AM on February 27, 2015


Many folks reported a shift to seeing blue/black after scrolling UP the image -- I think this is because the cue to look at the dress as strongly backlit (and therefore white/gold) is in the upper right corner, where the sunspot is "blocked" by the shoulder of the dress. If you scroll up the picture, you will form your opinion on the color before that cue, and are more likely to assume the whole image is brightly lit.
posted by apparently at 3:59 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just pulled up the image to show my 6 year old. As it loaded it was clearly blue and black to me (the first time I actually saw the lace as black, after seeing gold over and over, and the blue more vibrant than I saw it was before) - maybe because there is more light in the room now than when I looked at it last night?

My son looked and immediately said it was gold and white. My husband is doing some sort of weird victory dance.

So now this thing is tearing whole families apart.
posted by Mchelly at 4:07 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's blue and black. Deal with your cognitive defects, team gold freaks.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 4:09 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


First viewing was black and blue. When I followed a link from another site about a half hour later, my first view was white and gold which lasted for about 10 secs before turning to the black and blue.

Stupid vestigial reptile chameleon response.
posted by klarck at 4:13 AM on February 27, 2015


I believe that the dress is blue and black, but I also believe that the picture of the dress looks white and gold. Fortunately, ~73% of people agree with me, but I promise that the Blueblacker relocation camps will be nice.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:17 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought that it was interesting that my twitter feed totally blew up with this last night and then I switched over to Facebook and ... nothing. Not mention of the dress. Or Llamas.
posted by octothorpe at 4:29 AM on February 27, 2015


Showed the picture to the kids this morning at breakfast. Each saw it differently and argued quite loudly over it.
posted by humanfont at 4:36 AM on February 27, 2015


I can only ever see white and gold. Has it now been established that this makes me less evolved/intelligent, since my brain cannot correct for the lighting conditions and we all know the dress is really black and blue in 'standard' conditions of lighting? Serious question.
posted by colie at 4:36 AM on February 27, 2015


I woke up to a bunch of oblique mentions of the dress in my Facebook, phrased as if you're already supposed to know about it. So it might depend on how much crossover you have between platforms.
posted by Miko at 4:37 AM on February 27, 2015


Pepsi Clear vs. Pepsi Blue
posted by jozxyqk at 4:38 AM on February 27, 2015


A local politician makes a campaign promise. She has my vote (she did anyway).
posted by octothorpe at 4:46 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I see blue and black. My wife sees white and gold. I'm pretty sure the people who see white and gold are walk-ins. Like on The X-Files. Or at the very least, human/alien hybrids. Which means, I'm married to one. Now I'm afraid she's gonna put me in a tank of black water, like ScarJo in that one movie, and my skin will come off like an old track suit. Help me.
posted by valkane at 4:46 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Opinionated Dress Color Simulation lets you jog for the dress you want
posted by oulipian at 4:47 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Opinionated Dress Color Simulation lets you jog for the dress you want

Yeah, see, it still looks blue and black/deep brown to me no matter what.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:50 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


For the record, my wife and I both only see white and gold.
posted by octothorpe at 4:50 AM on February 27, 2015


Is the dress in the shade, backlit by bright light, or is it in the bright light itself? If your brain assumes the former, it's white and gold, the latter its blue and black.
But what about those of us who see blue and gold?
posted by blub at 4:51 AM on February 27, 2015


After only seeing white and gold when I looked at this last night, I can now make the dress go back and forth! At first, I thought I was going insane, but now feel I have developed a superpower.

The key is, to make the dress look blue and black, I stare at a light bulb for a minute or so before looking at it. For white and gold, I close my eyes for 5 minutes or so before looking at it.
posted by lesli212 at 5:09 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Over 600 comments and we haven't even started on whether the dress is safe to eat.
posted by oulipian at 5:12 AM on February 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Even scrolling up, even using the sliders, while I intellectually understand that the dress is blue and black, the lace still always appears brown or gold to me.

tl;dr You dumb bastard. It's not a sailboat, it's a schooner.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:16 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


*sits quietly in her lonely slightly-purplish pale blue and brown corner*

If the brown is a mustard/gold/brown color, I'm with you. I don't see blue/black or gold/white no matter how hard I look.

I've never seen the images in magic pictures either.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 5:23 AM on February 27, 2015


The company who makes the dress is taking full advantage of all this.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:32 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


the lace still always appears brown or gold to me.
But isn't that because it is brown or gold in the picture? The slider only makes that more clear to me. A color picker also says it's brown(ish), so this is different from other illusions, like the one with the checkerboard where one square looks very light grey and the other very dark grey but they're actually the same color. Here, I'm willing to accept that the dress is black (because lightning and photo's can make colors come out differently), but I don't see that the color in the picture is black.
posted by blub at 5:34 AM on February 27, 2015


I've looked at it in different lighting on different devices and at different angles, and I can't see anything but black and blue.

I guess the important thing is that I'm right. Boo yah!
posted by amro at 5:40 AM on February 27, 2015


I was hoping a good night's sleep and change to ambient daylight would reveal the blue+black to me. Nope, the original is still blueish-white and gold, even if i scroll up/down/sideways, or focus for a bit on the lower-right reddish wood bit.

happyroach's 3 images are helping me see what blueblackers are seeing - I do see the middle one as blue+black. The top and bottom still look white+gold, so part of me takes the 3 together and keeps thinking "oh, even the middle one is the same white+gold dress with the levels toyed with". But if I stare at the middle one and try to focus on it as an independent image, then yes, blue+black. The original? White+gold, and has never changed for me.
posted by shortfuse at 5:41 AM on February 27, 2015


For the record, now that my son is awake, we are a 4/5ths white/gold household. We will start looking for a nice blue/black apartment for my wife--something with a large cauldron and sacrificial altar where she can continue to practice the dark arts, but far from us.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:43 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


When I first saw it I could only see white and gold. But if I tilt my phone screen, it's blue and black.
posted by lwb at 5:44 AM on February 27, 2015




I'm in the white-gold camp, I showed this to my son after breakfast on my laptop, and without thinking he said "blue and black." We're looking at the same screen.
posted by carter at 5:45 AM on February 27, 2015


Seriously went to bed thinking this was some elaborate prank or inside joke I just wasn't getting. Nobody in my house sees anything but blue and black (except my slightly colourblind son who thinks it's green). Slightly disappointed this is some sort of perception thing.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:46 AM on February 27, 2015


So are we talking about black as a physiological response to stimuli or black as a social construct?

When I "see" the dress as "blue/black", the saturation and to some degree the hues generally fall into one of three groups: pale blue-violet/bronze, medium cornflower blue/deep brown, or a more intense blue/dark warm grey.

(The two times I "saw" it as "white/gold" it was dirty cream/baby shit brown, I think.)

My first impression of the dress was along the more intense blue/dark warm grey combo. I know that:

1) Lighting can make those dyed textiles, fresh from the manufacturer, shift quite a lot in real life conditions and in good and bad photos.
2) Wear and tear makes a lot of blacks approach their underlying colour cast (greenish or brownish black are common) [This dress's back story makes it clear that it is pretty new, so this wouldn't apply, but I wasn't aware of this on first looking at the link].
3) Most women's clothing will go for blue and black instead of blue and brown, because a lot of us have been taught that blue and brown should not go together.

All this combined probably suggested to me -- without consciously thinking about it -- that I was seeing a dress marketed as blue and black under somewhat misleading conditions.

The illusions people have referenced, where an image file was created and the colours could be tested, will obviously use "true" RGB or CMYK values. But this lady's dress wasn't created in Photoshop, and my expectations of the fidelity of the pixels will be quite different (see list above).
posted by maudlin at 5:51 AM on February 27, 2015


There is no dress.
posted by dr_dank at 5:52 AM on February 27, 2015


I'd wear this dress. It's pretty.
posted by kyrademon at 5:56 AM on February 27, 2015


Isn't the brown appearance also partially caused by the flash? I also wonder if the lace material might also reflect light differently than the rest of the dress material, which would add to the confusion. (Imagine taking a flash photo of a shiny black metal object next to a matte pastel object.)
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:59 AM on February 27, 2015


I like how there is a third camp, the extremely literal pixels camp who measured the colors in photoshop.
posted by smackfu at 6:05 AM on February 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


The Rolling Stones have just announced that the name of the album was actually "White and Gold" and y'all had it wrong all these years....
posted by HuronBob at 6:08 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've looked at that dress hundreds of times and I still don't see any llamas.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:11 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's why we have science.
posted by almostmanda at 6:17 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I spent the entirety of yesterday swearing up and down it was white and gold, couldn't see anything else, then I finally climb into bed, click on this thread for a laugh before falling asleep, and it's blue and black.

It's now 9AM and I didn't sleep. Help.
posted by flatluigi at 6:25 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I saw this as blue and gold, so I'm in neither camp. I'd be curious to see it under different lighting, if such a thing were possible.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 6:26 AM on February 27, 2015


(Actually, it's more of a bluish-purple and gold.)
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 6:29 AM on February 27, 2015


White and gold. Definitely.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:29 AM on February 27, 2015


This dress has overtaken my entire FB feed. I just scrolled through my timeline and found 31 references to it before I got tired of counting.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:30 AM on February 27, 2015


This is why eyewitness testimony isn't as great as it's made out to be. How many people are in jail because of crimes committed by a person of the opposite race?
posted by Renoroc at 6:38 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am a white and golder. I looked at the same image on a lower quality display, and it definitely looked a little more blue and black. I still can't see the blue as a deep royal blue, but more sky blue.
posted by salmacis at 6:40 AM on February 27, 2015


Initially blue+grey or blue+black. With mangasm's link I can see where the grey could look gold (only at the top of the dress) but still not the leap to white.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 6:44 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was adamant that it was white/gold until late last night, when it completely switched to blue/browny-black. Seriously, it's like day and night, a total gestalt shift. Then I was worried I wouldn't ever see the white/gold again, but now it's back, and now I can feel in my brain how it's both.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:48 AM on February 27, 2015


If the brown is a mustard/gold/brown color, I'm with you. I don't see blue/black or gold/white no matter how hard I look.

I've never seen the images in magic pictures either.


That's interesting. I am a blue/gold person, and I can't see the images in magic pictures either. Perhaps we lonely few process images differently?
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 6:49 AM on February 27, 2015


After sleeping on this and still not being able to see white and gold (not that I would expect to after sleeping, but I sleep anyway so what the hell) I have concluded that anyone insisting on "white and gold" is less awesome than me. I have impeccable vision and my night vision is so good that it's distracting -- lights become incredibly intense and form these giant fuckin' lens flares sometimes, but my visual acuity is really more awesome than you could even imagine {/}

But in all seriousness, my eyes are glorious yo
posted by aydeejones at 6:51 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


White with subtle blue tint and slightly oxidized bronze.

If there is money riding on your interpretation look at your data on a pure gray scale.
posted by bukvich at 6:51 AM on February 27, 2015


Over on the green, fraula has linked to a set of photos, the one on the right has been edited and the one on the left is the orig AND IT'S BLUE AND BLACK. Aaaarrrgh. How is this happening? They are all blue and black now: buzzfeed, tumblr.

The only thing I can think of, is it's night. I've just come back from a long drive, so I've been away from the computer for several hours, it was hibernating, and I've been driving at night and now I'm in a room with one lamp with a CFL bulb.

The blue is a med to dark purpley blue and the lace is black. I feel so ashamed.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:52 AM on February 27, 2015


Also I concur with the person who said their night vision is so good they almost never see pitch-black darkness, and when I do, my visual cortex goes fuckin' nuts rendering all sorts of entertaining patterns. I "see stars" extremely easy, like from sneezing too hard, and I "see floaters" more often than I would care to. Maybe my eyes are really just abused and sad, but I think they are awesome-eyes.
posted by aydeejones at 6:52 AM on February 27, 2015


OK, it's been a number of hours now, when the hell are we going to begin the Great Scourging?

If Team Gold/Bronze can't get it together enough to purge the filthy blueblackers from our midst, I swear I might start saying I see green/brown.
posted by aramaic at 6:53 AM on February 27, 2015


only 90s kids remember hypercolor
posted by desjardins at 6:53 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Huh. So there really are only two types of people in this world.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:55 AM on February 27, 2015


But in all seriousness, my eyes are glorious yo

*high five* I'm old enough that when I renew my drivers' license, I have to get an eye test first now; did that last year and I test at 20/20 in one eye, and 20/10 in the other. And my night vision is such that I don't turn on any lights when I get up in the middle of the night to pee; if you threw me into the middle of a strange room and turned out the light, I may have to wait couple minutes for my eyes to dilate, but once that happened I'd be able to navigate through the room pretty easy.

And I'm team blue/black.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of the tritone paradox, although that is even more baffling to me due to the geographical/cultural influences on it.
posted by edd at 7:02 AM on February 27, 2015


#teamblueblack #teamnightvision #teamcilantrosucks
posted by komara at 7:11 AM on February 27, 2015


Hey, i haven't read through this whole thread yet, but apparently people see this dress as different colors, if no one has mentioned that yet
posted by Greg Nog at 7:11 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I just ran a news search for blue dress cornflower (just to see who shares my love for that colour name) and found two articles that just displayed a "white/gold" dress to me.

- Against a dark background: Las Vegas Review Journal
- Against a white background: Sidney Morning Herald

But when I say "white/gold", I'm reporting on a very pale lilac/yellow ochre combo. The dress felt like a white under shadow rather than a literal pale lilac, probably because (to my eyes) it's not a great colour combo for someone to have deliberately chosen.

Meanwhile, it's still "blue/black" everywhere else.

I wonder why my literal experience of some combo of saturated/less saturated blue and brown-black just swapped over to the other combo like that. The lace looks the goldiest it's ever been so far in those photos.

I think some sort of semi-conscious expectations of how dresses are designed are taking that muddy blue-ish/brownish image -- which does appear darker or lighter at various times, but is still swatch tested as blue-ish/brownish -- and usually pushing it over to bluish/blackish, but very occasionally to whitish/goldish, depending on ambient lighting, colour of other objects nearby, etc.
posted by maudlin at 7:13 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


holy crap. i was firmly white, gold, and ugly.

then i saw redsparkler's post and looked at the image from the store site that shows the online image and a photo. then i went and looked buzzfeed and IT CHANGED AS I WATCHED. it wasn't as blue as the store site, but it was def blue and like a washed out black.

so now i can switch back and forth between seeing white and gold and blue and black.

weird.
posted by sio42 at 7:13 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Since a lot of people seem to have missed it, there is another photo (detail posted on tumblr) of the same dress worn by the same person on the same day.

In the properly-exposed photo, it's clearly royal blue and dark black. Some people above assume it's a washed-out or brownish black, but I'm pretty sure that's an artifact of the overexposure, since it doesn't look at all washed out in the properly-exposed photo. The overexposed one simply loses a lot of color information and there's only so much the brain can do to fill it back in.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:14 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


also, i cannot see the images in the magic pictures things.

someone should do a study...
posted by sio42 at 7:16 AM on February 27, 2015


WHAT JUST HAPPENED? I saw a way overexposed picture of gross mustardish lace on a greywhite ground and then I looked at Fraula's thing and now I see sunblasted royal blue and rusty black lace. Whose damn wedding was this? Why was it allowed? What happened and whose fault is it?
posted by Don Pepino at 7:25 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


FCC approves net neutrality.

Everyone on internet argues about a dress.

Carry on, humans.
posted by freakazoid at 7:32 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Periwinkle and taupe forever.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:34 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm just happy we can all agree that this train is DEFINITELY moving from right to left and not from left to right.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:35 AM on February 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


I woke up this morning and looked at the tablet. It was even whiter than when I originally saw it. On my laptop it always looks blue and dark gold or black. On other devices it changes.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:37 AM on February 27, 2015




Right now the most bizarre way the dress affects me is how thoroughly it's taken over my Facebook feed. I went out for evening activities - no dress posts. Came home late - my entire Facebook feed was dress posts. I was like WTF?! because the first several as I scrolled from most recent to several hours ago were coy and vague "it's blue and black, dammit" or "team gold and white" WITH NO OTHER EXPLANATION, from friends of mine that definitely do not know each other.

Now that I know what is going on, I am firmly blue and black, while my husband is just as firmly white and gold.
posted by booksherpa at 7:39 AM on February 27, 2015


What I would like to see correlated with the blue/black and white/gold perception divide is how much the observers spend on an average day looking at video displays--monitor, tablet, and phone. The most important data in this thread might be the users who saw one thing last night and then first thing this morning they flipped.
posted by bukvich at 7:42 AM on February 27, 2015


A cute illustrated explanation.
posted by Tom-B at 7:43 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


This whole thing keeps reminding me of the vampires from Peter Watts's "Blindsight":

"Vampires? I don't know. Just met my first one yesterday."
"And?"
"Hard to read. Didn't even seem to be aware of his surroundings sometimes, he seemed to be... off in his own little world."
"He's aware all right. Those things are so fast it's scary. You know they can hold both aspects of a Necker cube in their heads at the same time?"

The term rang a bell. I subtitled, and saw the thumbnail of a familiar wireframe box.
Now I remembered: classic ambiguous illusion. Sometimes the shaded panel seemed to be in front, sometimes behind. The perspective flipped back and forth as you watched.

"You or I, we can only see it one way or the other," Pag was saying. "Vamps see it both ways at once. Do you have any idea what kind of an edge that gives 'em?"


So anyway I guess what I'm saying is that vampires could see this dress as all the colors
posted by Greg Nog at 7:44 AM on February 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Is this going to be the shibboleth for the upcoming revolution?

It isn't, right?
posted by The Zeroth Law at 7:46 AM on February 27, 2015


So the conundrum really has to do with whether the picture is overexposed or underexposed. The blown out background makes me think the foreground is underexposed, but there's no way to be sure.

So when a gold color is underexposed it becomes what color? Blackish/dark brown. Check.
When a white color is underexposed it becomes what color? Depends on the color temperatures involved, in this case, blue. Check.

When a blue color is overexposed, it becomes what color? A lighter blue or lavender. Check.
When a BLACK color is overexposed, it becomes what color? A lighter black, or gray. NOT OCHRE, NOT BROWN.

White and gold, bitches. Check and mate.
posted by fungible at 7:46 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's nothing but base trickery. It's in shadow, so the perceived color should be darker than the actual color, but it's lighter (which is why I said "way overexposed"). Once you know the stupid goddamn horrible thing is blue, your eyebrainthing compensates and it "fades" to blue. RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU HORRIBLY. I'm going as this dress for halloween. If people ask what I am I'll intone, I AM A HORSEMAN OF THE APOCALYPSE.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:48 AM on February 27, 2015


The blown out background makes me think the foreground is underexposed

The blown out background makes me think the entire image is overexposed. That's why my brain interprets it as an overexposed blue and black dress.
posted by rocket88 at 7:51 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Isn't this how some world wars start?
posted by moody cow at 7:52 AM on February 27, 2015


This is a pretty good write-up.

I think this has to do with exposure and white balance.
posted by phaedon at 7:52 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, but like I said, we don't know. Still, overexposed black /= brown.
posted by fungible at 7:52 AM on February 27, 2015


What about the fact that people are holding on to whatever they believe they see long enough to get online and complain that other people are doing it wrong?
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:54 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Uh, the person who posted the photo has told us (and provided evidence) what the dress's real color is. It's not a mystery. Sigh...
posted by mbrubeck at 7:55 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, but like I said, we don't know. Still, overexposed black /= brown.

We do know. The dress doesn't come in white/gold (though it probably will soon), and we've seen pictures of the dress in different light that show it is clearly a royal blue and black dress.

The background looks blown out because the background is a mirror. The photographer took a picture with the flash on and the entire image is overexposed. The black-->brown question is probably answered by the phone camera doing an AWB giving everything a more yellow hue.

Arguing that the dress IS IN FACT white at this point is obtuse. I can see arguing that the dress looks white (though, even in today's xkcd, the dress looks blue in both pics to me), but the question to be answered is why a blue dress might look white, not whether the dress is blue or not.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:58 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is the best visual explanation that I've seen. Black dress, yellow light, white dress, blue shadow. You're welcome.
posted by redsparkler at 7:58 AM on February 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


everybody relax, it's white and gold again this morning, everything is okay, everything is gonna be alright
posted by cortex at 8:00 AM on February 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's a beautiful white+gold day.

*goes to window, sees blue+black snow everywhere covering the streets of Somerville, screams*
posted by shortfuse at 8:02 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Shit like this is why The Singularity is NFW.
posted by klarck at 8:03 AM on February 27, 2015


Baby Jessie, what color is the dress?
posted by PHINC at 8:06 AM on February 27, 2015


Soooo it's Friday, is it goats and sarongs today?

or perhaps cameoleopards and capri pants?
posted by edgeways at 8:07 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've just done my part by infecting four other people and they have in turn infected at least three others. The end is nigh.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:11 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


To me the most interesting thing about this is that it demonstrates that the "real world" we supposedly "see" is actually a post-processing rendering and not an actual, independently existing thing at all. What color is the dress "really?" There is no actual color. There is only our perception of color. For that matter, there is no actual dress outside this post-processing rendered image we call the observable world, which is all we ever have access to. So let's all relax!
posted by haricotvert at 8:13 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


That said, it's definitely white and gold.
posted by haricotvert at 8:13 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


This article has another picture of the dress worn by the owner showing it is really blue and black. Yet the other pictures clearly show white / gold, or light blue / dark gold, or blue -- oh hell my eyeballs fell out.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:14 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


White and gold was much nicer than that wack blue and black. Wack attack, I want my white-gold back!
posted by asok at 8:14 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just saw it in a thumbnail on a friend's fb feed, and EPIPHANY! I CAN SEE WHITE AND GOLD! It still looks blue as soon as I look at it for real, but out of the corner of my eye without thinking I can at least finally see what all you white-and-gold-wrongos are experiencing.

Not sure I'll admit it to the two in my family, though.
posted by Mchelly at 8:16 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


(from dirigibleman's link): "The image, which has captivated our culture since the end of tonight’s Wheel Of Fortune..."
posted by Mchelly at 8:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


When Mrs. VTX showed this to me we both looked at it on her laptop screen. I thought it was some kind of joke where you try to convince someone that they are the only person who sees it as blue/black. The lace part appears kind of shimmery so I can kind of see a dark bronze/gold color but the blue is firmly blue for me and solidly white/gold for her.

While we staring at it, it shift to blue/black for her and then back. She very nearly exploded she was so freaked out. I tried to will my perception to change thinking that it would shift to white/gold for me but it stayed blue/black.

When I first looked at Maudlin's links up thread, it finally looked white/gold against the dark background. It was back to blue/black when I looked at the 2nd link AND it was back to blue/black when I looked at the 1st link a 2nd time.
posted by VTX at 8:22 AM on February 27, 2015


Still blue/black for me - now it's more "faded black" than "black with rust dust over a lot of it".

Btw, I actually have really bad night vision. Or maybe I've got a super long adjustment period, whatever, it's unpleasant - I twisted my ankle more than once at bush parties from stumbling into holes, hate driving at night (too much light from headlights), get lost on the way to the loo while visiting people, etc.

Possibly relevant: I remember doing some visual test in the third grade as part of a larger assessment, and the assessor being really interested in the fact that I'd prioritized negative vs. positive space (he explained that I'd done that).
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:24 AM on February 27, 2015


If nothing else, this whole kerfuffle has accomplished the rare feat of allowing people to drop "qualia" into the conversation and not sound pretentious.
posted by Cash4Lead at 8:29 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


But now, knowing full-well what the dress properly looks like and seeing the image repeated a million times, the blue has gotten darker and the brown has gotten blacker. Brains are so weird!
posted by jozxyqk at 8:32 AM on February 27, 2015


I think my least favorite part of all this is the celebrities confidently tweeting their opinion as fact. "It's okay, you can trust me. I'm a celebrity."
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:34 AM on February 27, 2015


Bill O'Reilly was there in person when the dress was sewn together by a Salvadorian dressmaker, and he says you're all utter idiots if you can't see the dress is red+white+blue.
posted by shortfuse at 8:38 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


The greatest trick the devil in a blue dress ever pulled, was convincing 75% of the world that the dress was white.
posted by notbuddha at 8:39 AM on February 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


No babies will be born nine months from today.

one more time
posted by likeatoaster at 8:43 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


My husband saw nothing but blue and black. I can make it switch. My daughter says "Uh, that dress is periwinkle with gold lace." My son, who is four, confidently proclaimed it to be greenish-blue. We're not so sure about him, though, he thinks that cheddar cheese is red.
posted by KathrynT at 8:44 AM on February 27, 2015


I saw blue and bkack the first 30x. Then suddenly it was white and gold!

It's definately a color constancy thing. It's like your brain decides the blue should look white and adjusts everything accordingly. To me it suggests that color experience is "created" by the brain somehow in the first place and is an utter mystery.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:47 AM on February 27, 2015


Pascal Wallasch's explanation is the best I've red yet.

Wired and Vice have it wrong, I'm almost certain of it. Indeed, there do exist small variations in rod and cone-type distributions among people with normal color vision, but these variations result in nearly imperceptible perceptual differences. It is very unlikely that huge swaths of the population would see such different percepts due to small retinal differences. Furthermore, the retinal variation explanation has a very difficult time handling the fact that the image is bi-stable: the same person, looking at the same image on the same device in the same lighting conditions, can experience two different percepts.

Therefore, this seems to be a different kind of phenomenon based on top-down expectations or interpretations of the scene. (Others in the thread have touched on this). Basically, there are two interpretations: one is a brightly lit background area and the dress is in shadow. Because you see the dress as in shadow, the visual system sees the relatively low (true) luminance of the dress, and compensates for this dark luminance by saying "Okay, the dress is in shadow so it appears darker than it is, therefore it is actually white and gold." The other interpretation is that the entire scene has been brightly lit by a flash or overexposure. The visual system sees the brightness of the scene and the actual luminance values of the dress, and compensates by saying "Okay, the whole scene is flooded with light and this dress is too, so the dress is actually dark blue and brown/black."

So how and why does this bi-stable percept flip? (I personally staunchly see it as gold and white, which upsets and annoys me, but is very much in line with the fact that many percepts are simply out of our conscious control). I'm not sure. One common thread seems to be that people who scroll the image from the bottom up are able to see it as blue-black when they previously saw it as gold-gray. In Pascal Wallasch's post, you can try this trick with the moving dots. I personally see the two dots as moving up and down when I see the whole image; but scroll a bit so that I see only the top half of the image, and I see a dot moving left to right, and once this percept is established I can see "both" dots as moving left and right. Often, once a particular construction of a bi-stable stimulus has been established, it's quite difficult to get it to swap again.

The phenomenon is broadly "color constancy," but this is a very unique and compelling illustration of how a scene is constructed first, and that how we perceive the scene drives our access to the "details" (dress color) within the context of that scene.
posted by nicodine at 8:50 AM on February 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Depends on the celebrity and their qualifications, thesecretdecoderring. On matters of fashion, kyary pamyu pamyu is never wrong.
posted by yeolcoatl at 8:50 AM on February 27, 2015


But the real question is which dress do you like better? I actually really liked that gold color, but now I can't get myself to see it again.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2015


IT SWITCHED OVERNIGHT!!!!

Also, I have never seen a Magic Eye photo be anything other than a mess, and I have "visual snow" at night.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:59 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not usually immune to these kinds of illusions, the classic checkerboard and cylinder one works for me. I guess in this case my brain just doesn't believe there's enough information to judge shadow or sunlight and thus sticks to reporting the actual colors. It's a pity, I like it when I can do perceptual flipping.
posted by tavella at 9:06 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can only see white/gold. Try as hard as I might, I cannot see any black in that picture.

On the same device, asked merely "what colors do you see?" my husband said blue and black, and my 4-year-old said brown and white.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:07 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


the color of the dress you guys is UGLY.

right, that's it, I'm going outside.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:17 AM on February 27, 2015


> Oh wow. All yesterday evening I saw unambiguous blue with black and could not get how anyone saw white and gold. This morning when I saw news articles about it there was still no question about blue and black (note that it is still dark when I get to work in the morning). Just now I went to lunch and came back, driving out in the bright sun with everything still covered with bright white snow. I have a few minutes so I glanced at Google News again. The dress was unquestionably white with gold. I’ve been checking back and it’s sometimes kind of white but getting a little darker now, and sometimes I see both, and sometimes I just see blue with black again. I’m betting it’s going to go back to clearly blue as my eyes recover from all the brightness outside. (and yes, it seems to have done so already. Maybe took fifteen minutes.)
posted by dilettante at 9:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have been trying all morning to see black and blue. I really want to see black and blue. I feel like I'm in a Dystopian YA novel, and this is a sorting dress that will determine if I'm in the white/gold tribe - logical, orderly, seemingly perfect but really lawful evil, or the black/blue tribe - rebellious, creative, misunderstood. And I don't want to be in the white/gold tribe because the white/gold guys are always bad.
posted by bibliowench at 9:29 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


For that matter, there is no actual dress

Jeez, she showed up to her daughter's wedding nekkid?
posted by yoink at 9:31 AM on February 27, 2015


Stripes of woad and charcoal, not nekkid.
posted by maudlin at 9:33 AM on February 27, 2015


I only ever see blue and black no matter what picture I look at. My husband saw blue and black last night but white and gold this morning.

He says it's because his eyes are two different colors - one is blue and the other is a golden-brown.
posted by Beti at 9:39 AM on February 27, 2015


I have been trying all morning to see black and blue. I really want to see black and blue.

Yeah, me too. I don't normally have any difficulty with "flipping" illusions (well, no more than anyone does). I can duck a rabbit and rabbit a duck with the best of them. But this one. I just can't see how anyone sees this as anything other than a white/gold dress in shadow that's casting a very pale blue tinge on the white dress. When I look at the color-corrected versions that some people say have made it clear to them it just seems to make the white/gold nature of the original clearer. There's just no relation at all between the indisputable gold of that lace trim and black.

The brain is a weird and wonderful machine. I remember way back when that chessboard/cylinder illusion first went viral and so many people just would not believe that the "white" and "black" squares were the same color--no matter how many carefully constructed proofs people offered. I'm entirely aware of how drastically the brain color-corrects what the eyes report, but there's just no way in hell I can get my brain to try running a different algorithm on this image.
posted by yoink at 9:42 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey, Josef Albers in ON it. And yes, there's an app for that. Full version $16, but there's also a freebie with in-app purchases. I don't know how much black you have to mine to pay for those.
posted by maudlin at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2015


While I can see how some of the lace looks gold in places, I can't pick out any white at all. Even in the xkcd drawing, I don't see the white dress as white, I see it as lighter blue than the blue dress.
posted by soelo at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2015


So, I've spent the last three days in bed, ill with a violent stomach bug.

Today I felt well enough to peek at the internet, and it turns out everyone there has also been delirious for the last 60 or so hours. Llamas? Dress colors?

I prescribe bananas, sprite, and lots of sleep. (The dress is white and gold, I don't care what reality says.)
posted by nat at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2015


rewil : Oh thank god because I just came across this link on tumblr and had no context in which to put it. Sadly now I can't see the white/gold version, thanks to the power of suggestion I guess?

This was really interesting, because I was seeing white and gold until I followed this link, and then it became blue and gold.

What's even weirder is that when I follow leotrotsky's link, I totally see blue and black on the stills, but the little animated clip with the woman wearing it, makes it look white and gold again.

I'm sticking with blue and gold. The actual dress may be blue and black, but in that photo, the trim appears gold, and the color ID tool on my phone says I'm not completely crazy. May be a lighting thing, or some camera artifacting.
posted by quin at 9:50 AM on February 27, 2015


The Rolling Stones have just announced that the name of the album was actually "White and Gold" and y'all had it wrong all these years….

The Estate of Barry White also has a similar announcement….
posted by Kabanos at 9:53 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


All of the rancor is simply people feeding a fundamentalist urge to assert that two separate things, the dress as the real physical object and the digital artifact created by a low-quality camera, must be the same and therefore the intrinsically subjective process of compensating for bad lighting can have only one correct outcome.

Once you reject this fallacy, there's no problem admitting that the picture can be both objectively gold/orange and bluish-white and just a distorted sensor artifact of a physical object which is actually blue and black viewed under normal lighting conditions. Sadly, there's no way to parlay that into 25M page-views, although I'd love it if one of the online digital photograph courses managed to get anywhere near that level.
posted by adamsc at 9:55 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Once you reject this fallacy, there's no problem admitting that the picture can be both objectively gold/orange and bluish-white and just a distorted sensor artifact of a physical object which is actually blue and black viewed under normal lighting conditions.

But that doesn't account for the interesting real-world fact that some people, unaided by any prior knowledge of the dress's "real world" color, look at the "objectively gold/orange and bluish-white" photograph and see a blue/black dress. See it so convincingly, indeed, that they cannot understand those of us who see the "objective" colors of the image.
posted by yoink at 9:59 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


but the little animated clip with the woman wearing it, makes it look white and gold again.

That's because she is wearing the white/black version of the dress in the clip.
posted by VTX at 10:00 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


800 comments and no one talks about how ugly the bolero is? And how weird it is to hide your arms in a dress that is called a bodycon dress. (probably just me.)
posted by vespabelle at 10:03 AM on February 27, 2015


there's just no way in hell I can get my brain to try running a different algorithm on this image.

This is why this damned image has been so frustrating for me. I finally saw the blue and black and it's so different than what I was seeing earlier that I would think it's a different image entirely, but it's not. Now I can see both at different times but whatever mental process is letting me do that isn't really something I'm able to control.
posted by Hoopo at 10:04 AM on February 27, 2015


The Rolling Stones have just announced that the name of the album was actually "White and Gold"

I really dig that song "Hey, Orita."
posted by yoink at 10:04 AM on February 27, 2015


OK, so I showed people while I was out at lunch. Sometimes it was white / gold, sometimes blue / black. The weird(er) thing is everyone would agree with the colors, whichever they were at any given time.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:05 AM on February 27, 2015


Ha, both NoraReed and I ended up in Vox.
posted by naju at 10:07 AM on February 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


it ain't power of suggestion, or any optic nerve ju ju, or any other weirdness really ... it's (and I'm sure this has been pointed out already) the angle from which you are viewing your monitor.

That is, I get white/gold from a normal perspective but if I tilt my monitor down at a sufficiently sharp angle, or get low myself and look up at from a sufficiently sharp angle -- it's blue/black.

Meanwhile, actually important stuff is happening in the world.
posted by philip-random at 10:09 AM on February 27, 2015


But that doesn't account for the interesting real-world fact that some people, unaided by any prior knowledge of the dress's "real world" color, look at the "objectively gold/orange and bluish-white" photograph and see a blue/black dress. See it so convincingly, indeed, that they cannot understand those of us who see the "objective" colors of the image.
That's exactly what I was referring to with the subjective interpretation of a bad photograph: those people are objectively wrong if you are talking pixel values but they're also objectively right on the separate question of how to correctly interpret the digital picture to reconstruct the original scene. Those are separate questions and the problem stems from a perceived need to pretend that they have the same answer.

It also likely explains the difference in initial take – I would surprised if the crowd which sees blue/black hasn't, on average, spent more time looking at crappy phone photos and has just trained their brains to more quickly compensate for this particular class of distortion.
posted by adamsc at 10:10 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


it's (and I'm sure this has been pointed out already) the angle from which you are viewing your monitor.

It absolutely is not that.
posted by bondcliff at 10:11 AM on February 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


it's (and I'm sure this has been pointed out already) the angle from which you are viewing your monitor.

It absolutely is not that.


well, please explain my experience then ...
posted by philip-random at 10:12 AM on February 27, 2015


Once you reject this fallacy, there's no problem admitting that the picture can be both objectively gold/orange and bluish-white and just a distorted sensor artifact of a physical object which is actually blue and black viewed under normal lighting conditions.

The data (millions of people looking at the same image and seeing two different things) clearly shows that the brain is seeing exactly the same physical thing two distinctly different ways. This is not that new to color scientists.

The mistake you guys are making is that color is not a physical property, it is a mental property that our mind assigns to to things. The physical property is wavelength. Color is a conscious experience that the brain can apparently assign practically however it wants to.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:17 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


There are many ways to change the context in which you are seeing the image; tilting your monitor will work for some; adjusting the brightness will work for others. But these do not work for everyone.

That is I believe one can see a shift from tilting a monitor but that won't change anything for other people.
posted by mountmccabe at 10:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


The angle can shift things enough so that it may be enough to push you past the great divide, but it doesn't always work.
posted by maudlin at 10:18 AM on February 27, 2015


the problem stems from a perceived need to pretend that they have the same answer

Not really, no. That is, for most people what's interesting about this is not "who is correct about the real-world dress" it is "how can two people look at this same image and have such radically different experiences of what they're seeing." That is, leaving this at the purely phenomenological level, the image presents an interesting perceptual confusion.
posted by yoink at 10:20 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


At this point, I expect the Pope to weigh in today.
posted by naju at 10:21 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


At this point, I expect the Pope to weigh in today.

Once you've trained yourself to accept that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are one and indivisible and that Jesus's mother was a virgin, a dress being simultaneously white/gold and black/blue is pretty small beer.
posted by yoink at 10:23 AM on February 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


well, please explain my experience then

If it were simply the angle at which you viewed your monitor then a) We would all be able to instantly recreate the effect by changing our viewing angle b) We would all be able to see the same colors as everyone else if we changed the viewing angle and c) This wouldn't be a thing because everything on your screen changes a bit if you change your viewing angle.

I'm going with the whole white balance perception thing because I see different colors depending on what else is on the screen, the background, or anything else that changes the context of the photo. And it's not subtle either, I clearly see (bluish) white/gold sometimes and unmistakable black and dark blue at other times. I cannot cause that sort of change no matter how I look at my screen. XKCD is on it.
posted by bondcliff at 10:24 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


At this point, I expect the Pope to weigh in today.

In his traditional black & blue?
posted by mbrubeck at 10:27 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


XKCD is on it.

That's nicely done, but it still doesn't explain to me how anyone's seeing that trim as black. In the XKCD version I'm reading white/gold on the left (or, rather, pale-blue/gold as in the original photo) and dark-blue/dark-gold on the right.
posted by yoink at 10:27 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Was about to say the same thing. I see no black in the xkcd strip.
posted by shortfuse at 10:28 AM on February 27, 2015


I think the point of the XKCD strip is to show how the same thing can look different to your brain, depending on the context. I don't see black either, but I have seen black in several photos of the dress, even after I was 100% convinced that it was white and gold.

I don't know what exactly the explanation is, but I do know what it isn't. And it isn't the viewing angle. That would be an easy solution that we could all experiment with on our own and all come to the same conclusion.
posted by bondcliff at 10:31 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


That XKCD strip is supposed to be an illusion? I see exactly what's on the screen (blue and gold dress for each) so I'm just staring at it wondering what's the point...
posted by naju at 10:33 AM on February 27, 2015


XKCD shows only what I have been able to see all along: pale blue and dark gold. Nothing changes what I see--I cannot get to dark blue and black no matter what.
posted by librosegretti at 10:33 AM on February 27, 2015


I was 100% on the white and gold train, but now that I have seen the real dress, I can only see it as cobalt blue and black. Brains are weird and wonderful things.
posted by cecic at 10:35 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The XKCD doesn't have much of a point because people aren't actually looking at one of two different pictures. People's brains are interpreting the same picture in different ways supplying color interpretation that's not there, which doesn't seem to be quite the same thing as a simultaneous contrast illusion.

Also, picking one color and making everything that color removes a lot of information. I said above why I see it as black fwiw.

What I don't understand about the white/gold people is how they read a shadow in there, if that's what they're doing. How it could be so selectively on that dress, and so blue, and even with pretty clear signs of an overhead light. I don't see how they could see it. Sadness.
posted by nom de poop at 10:35 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


blue and gold dress for each

That's not what I see... White and gold dress in the first panel (blue woman), and blue and black dress in the last panel (gold woman). He's successfully replicated the illusion.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:36 AM on February 27, 2015


That's nicely done, but it still doesn't explain to me how anyone's seeing that trim as black.

None of us has seen the trim, and none of us will ever see the trim on that specific dress purchased for a wedding by a perfectly nice woman who is now wondering why the fuck everyone is analyzing her dress choices.

We see pixels on a screen. I'm mostly TeamBlueBlack (the hippie member who thinks it's faaaaaaar out that I can sometimes see gold and white), and even I will say the pixels look like a dark, warm grey to brown to bronze and, very occasionally, goldish. Photoshop laughs at my verbal descriptions and offers several different RGB values for the trim, depending on where exactly the sample was plucked, and in isolation, it's muddy brown. Fine.

But when we're asked "what colour is the dress?" some of us hear "what colours are the pixels on the screen representing the dress?" and some of us hear "yeah, it's a blurry, muddy picture, but what does that dress look like in the real world?". That last question can be answered in a conscious and earnest and grinding way, but for most of us, it was answered in a flash "muddy blue and brown ==> underexposed picture of the dress ==> blue and black in real life" Over and over again, I see every possible combo of blue and a darker colour, but sometimes the trim just LOOKS black (enough) because SCIENCE and UNCONSCIOUS BIAS and EXPERIENCE OF WOMEN'S FASHION.

(Is this time to dig up that old colour link that tested your ability to discriminate colours? I know I got a high but not perfect score. I'm not lying or colour blind. Really.)
posted by maudlin at 10:39 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I get that XKCD is illustrating something like the checker shadow illusion. What I don't understand about XKCD's illustration, though, is how it even remotely represents the background/context of the image. Do white/gold viewers see the dress as if it were in a dark, shadowy room?
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:39 AM on February 27, 2015


Yeah, that's it. A whitish gold dress (not glowing white) in a dark room. And the last panel is a blue black dress in a bright room.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:44 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I initially saw the dress as white (or very pale blue) and gold, in a shadowed foreground in front of an over-exposed background. I didn't even realize it was in a room; I thought it was an outdoor shot, with the foreground in shade and the background in direct sunlight.

(After my brain switched to seeing blue and black, I have never been able to see it as white and gold again. Though the black does look more brown if I focus on the upper half of the image, and more black if I focus on the lower half.)
posted by mbrubeck at 10:45 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I love that last night we were all arguing about the color of the dress and today we're all arguing about why the dress appears to be colored differently.

Quick, someone insist that we're not arguing about it and then we can argue about that!
posted by bondcliff at 10:46 AM on February 27, 2015


Wait til we start arguing about why we're arguing about why the dress appears to be colored differently that's where I'm a viking.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:52 AM on February 27, 2015


But when we're asked "what colour is the dress?" some of us hear "what colours are the pixels on the screen representing the dress?" and some of us hear "yeah, it's a blurry, muddy picture, but what does that dress look like in the real world?".

But again, that's not, in fact, the "we can easily explain this away" basis of the controversy. I know we're not seeing the "real dress." I know we're just looking at pixels on a screen. But to me, those pixels on the screen look like they were generated by taking a photograph of a white and gold dress. I'm not somehow stubbornly refusing to just look at the image and insisting on only looking at what my color-dropper in Photoshop tells me, or something. I'm taking in the gestalt of the image and seeing it as an image of "a white and gold dress." And so, obviously are the majority of most viewers of the image. Some people look at the same image and take it to be, equally naturally, a photo of a blue and black dress. Many of those people are simply astounded that anyone sees it as white and gold. I imagine that for those astounded people, what they learn from actually isolating the pixels comes as quite a surprise.

So it's not simply that we all know the pixels-look-like-this but the image-looks-like-that and we choose which one we think it important. It is the case that our brains are choosing to interpret the same information in radically different ways which our, for most of us, out of our control. And that's interesting.
posted by yoink at 10:53 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Wait til we start arguing about why we're arguing about why the dress appears to be colored differently that's where I'm a viking.

A literal viking or a blue viking?
posted by bondcliff at 10:54 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


You Guys!
Spock just gave his life so that we may break free of the Blue vs White struggle that was set to overtake the planet and consume the last remains of our humanity.
posted by edgeways at 10:55 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


yeah, what mbrubeck said:. I thought I was looking at a dress hanging outside underneath a roof or tree canopy or something being blasted from behind by the light of mid-day. And I thought all you blueblacks were crazy in the head. The buzzfeed photo is cropped, so there's less to go by and it's harder to see where the light's coming from. Sadly, then I saw Fraula's pictures on askme that included the whole dress. After I looked at those I couldn't see the yellow and white one anymore: it would look white for a minute and then darken to blue. Now the damn thing is blue all the time unless I see it in extreme closeup with barely anything but the neckline. I wish I could get back to gold-and-white innocence, because if possible the gold/white one was even uglier than the black/blue one, and I like a bad picture of an ugly dress of a Friday, but I know it will never happen for me.

Is there anyone in the world who hasn't seen this, yet? What if you showed it to a neophyte and said, "where was this picture taken?" and then asked the color question? I bet the "it's outside" camp would all think white and the "in a dress-shop" camp would all think blue.
posted by Don Pepino at 10:55 AM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Do white/gold viewers see the dress as if it were in a dark, shadowy room?

I see it as a white-gold dress that is in a shadowed part of a brightly lit room. Imagine, for example, that you have a room that has one very high ceiling section and another very low ceiling section. The bright lights are up on the high ceiling, but the dress is in the unlit low-ceilinged part. The photo thus captures the dress in shadow with a brightly lit background. Thus the pale blue color of the dress just looks like white-in-shadow.

(P.S. I fully understand that this is NOT what the image is actually capturing, I'm just saying what I see when I see the photo without having been told anything about it.)
posted by yoink at 10:57 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Last night when I told the husband the whole internet was talking about this dress, he didn't believe me. I just turned on our local news, and they did a bit on the dress situation.

"Well, if it made it to our local news, I guess the whole internet was talking about it."

They also showed the llamas. I like the llamas better than the dress.
posted by Orb at 10:58 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


But to me, those pixels on the screen look like they were generated by taking a photograph of a white and gold dress.

That's cool. I've seen it like that, too, albeit very briefly. I accept that your brain mostly sees white and gold and mine only sometimes sees white and gold. I don't think the xkcd cartoon does much to help the case, but that Pascal Wallasch article (previously linked) is pretty helpful.
posted by maudlin at 10:58 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do white/gold viewers see the dress as if it were in a dark, shadowy room?

To me, the white/gold dress looks like it's under old/bad fluorescent lighting, maybe in or outside a shopping center. Kind of like it's lit by a tv screen.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:00 AM on February 27, 2015


Oh Holy Shit! I just looked at a cropped image of the dress and BAM, it's blue and black! Man. I thought at first that it was a color-corrected image the contrast was so stark, but then I went back to the original and it, too, was blue/black. It's amazing. The difference is so fundamental that if someone were to show me evidence that it was all a giant hoax, that the image was actually a gif on a r-e-a-l-l-y slow cycle or something I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand.

Anyway, it's a huge relief to have broken through to the other side. Now I just wonder if I'll ever be able to see it white/gold again.

The brain is truly, truly weird.
posted by yoink at 11:04 AM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've seen both colors on the same monitor. I've seen both on a different computer/monitor.

I have seen both on different web sites that post stories about this....

I surmise: the original alternates. Different web sites alternate depending on when they did their screen grab.

What needs confirmation and further investigation is two people looking at the same monitor at the same time, same viewing angle, see two different color schemes.

Note: I sent a link via email to my brother who is color blind...result: "White and green."
posted by CrowGoat at 11:05 AM on February 27, 2015


You guys have it all wrong. It's not colour balance, it's not a weird bug in the human visual cortex.

It's actually quite simple. (Warning: SLYT and deeply nerdy minecraftisms)

The only mystery that remains is, what did the llamas have to do with it?
posted by bonehead at 11:07 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


yoink - Got a link to the cropped image that did the trick for you?
posted by shortfuse at 11:07 AM on February 27, 2015


By the way, one simple trick that's at least worth a try for those stuck seeing it one way or the other: right click on the image and select "view image." That takes it from being surrounded by white (on the Buzzfeed page) to being surrounded by black. Oh, and this is the page with the cropped image that made me flip to blue/black.
posted by yoink at 11:09 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ok, after seeing that cropped image, the white parts now seem much bluer, like medium sky blue, but definitely bluer than the blueish white I've been seeing. (Still doesn't seem like the fundamental switch you're describing.) But still no black - I just can't turn gold into black.
posted by shortfuse at 11:14 AM on February 27, 2015


Say: I bet it has to do with where you encountered the photo first. Me, it was Matt's Buzzfeed link. Well, Buzzfeed opens to a white screen, the picture loads, and you see the top third of the picture featuring the shoulders and neckline of the helldress and a blaze of white light in the top right corner. Not a lot to go by, but you still form a theory, apparently. Based on what I saw when the picture first loaded, I formed the difficult-to-shake impression that I was looking at sunlight blasting over the left shoulder of a demondress that someone had hung up outside under a low overhang and taken a picture of in order to put it on the internet, drive everyone insane, and end the world. My insto-theory must've hardened in before I scrolled down enough to see the dress-shop fluorescence reflecting off its evil bodice and hellish skirt. It might just as easily have gone the other way.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:18 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Still doesn't seem like the fundamental switch you're describing.)

Yeah, I have no idea if the cropped-ness of the image actually played a role, or if it was just that gestalt switch that a number of people have described above (saw it one day as white/gold, next day as blue/black). But the degree of the change in my head is just remarkable. What once looked clearly white to me, with just a wee tinge of blue is now basically a slightly dusty-looking royal blue. And just like you, I could not see how anyone was reading that plainly "gold" trim as black, but now it's just "obviously" a blown-out black.

I want to emphasize that it's not just that I'm seeing how a blue-black dress could produce that light-blue/gold image on the screen--what before just unquestionably "looked" white/blue to me now equally unquestionably "looks" blue/black. As I say, the contrast is so strong I thought I was looking at a grossly color-corrected image at first. Fascinating.
posted by yoink at 11:22 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am completely confounded as to how anyone can look at these three images (posted previously) and still think the original looks white and gold. Look at the background of the second image. Don't those look like normal colors you would see in real life? Look at the background of the third image. Doesn't that look like the sun is in your eyes on a bright day? Conclusion: reality is probably closer to the second image than the third.
posted by desjardins at 11:25 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


That cropped image is colour corrected. Looking at the two side by side there's a clear difference.
posted by edd at 11:25 AM on February 27, 2015


That cropped image is colour corrected.

Really? That's even more interesting, then. Because I'd looked at lots of color corrected versions of the complete image before without them changing anything about how I saw the original, but with the cropped image it somehow "primed" me to go back to the original and see it as blue/black.
posted by yoink at 11:30 AM on February 27, 2015


What needs confirmation and further investigation is two people looking at the same monitor at the same time, same viewing angle, see two different color schemes.

I showed it to my wife on my iPhone, with no explanation, and no set-up. Just "what color is is this dress?' Her answer: white and gold. I never see it anything other than blue and balack(ish).

After her answer, I even zoomed in to eliminate any background. White and gold. I asked her to compare the background color to the dress. The dress was still white and gold to her. It was the most amazing thing. The very same image I was looking at, at the same time, was an entirely different color to her.

Then I noticed that the tissue box on our footstool was the same blue that I saw the dress. I held up the tissue box right next to the iphone, with the dress zoomed in. The color was so similar as to be nearly identical. I asked my wife if the dress was the same color as the tissue box to her. "Nope. It's the same color as the tissues: white!"
posted by The Deej at 11:31 AM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Conclusion: reality is probably closer to the second image than the third.

Knowing what the dress looks like "in reality" really doesn't help at all with telling your brain what it thinks it is seeing when it looks at the photo.
posted by yoink at 11:31 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well corrected might not be the right term but it's distinctly darker.
posted by edd at 11:32 AM on February 27, 2015


I was seeing it as blue and black the whole time. Then a CNN article with a picture came across my twitter feed and it was white and gold. I clicked back to the exact same tab I had been looking at before that was blue and black, and it was now white and gold also! I was looking deep into the gold lace and thinking, "wow, I like this color" that three minutes previously was an entirely different color!!! I think yoink is right that this is like a Wittgenstein duck-rabbit thing. Somehow there is an unconscious "decision" being made to go to one gestalt or the other. Sure the background and other context impacts the decision, but perhaps it is so close to a threshold to begin with that these other factors are not that critical. Once it goes down one path, it is very difficult to get back to the other. This is really cool.

Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka has a website with many different optical illusions, including Color Constancy.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:33 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well corrected might not be the right term but it's distinctly darker.

Yes, I just put them side by side and I don't think there has been any color-correction, just darkening--but that did the trick for me. And when I have the original and the darkened crop side by side, the original is still being clearly blue/black.
posted by yoink at 11:41 AM on February 27, 2015


Knowing what the dress looks like "in reality" really doesn't help at all with telling your brain what it thinks it is seeing when it looks at the photo.

I'm not talking about the dress. I'm talking about the colors in the background. Doesn't the background of the 2nd picture look "normal" to you (with respect to color)? In the picture with the normal-looking background, the dress is black and blue. Therefore, in the original picture, with the shitty lighting, the dress must also be black and blue.
posted by desjardins at 11:42 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


yoink, that's not just a crop, that's a crop they've massively dialed down the red and green relative to blue, resulting in a blueshift, so that's probably what pushed you over the perceptual line. You can see it easily if you crop the original and side by side them, or if you dropper. For example, the little bubble on the bolero, if you dropper it on the original it is 167R 175G 222B , and on the slate link it is 118R 143G 207B. For me it just changes it from periwinkle and taupe (thanks whoever phrased that!) to pale blue and a slightly yellower taupe, but for those the illusion works for it may push them past the flipping point.
posted by tavella at 11:47 AM on February 27, 2015


I wish somebody'd re-correct the other way. I wanna see white and gold again and it's bumming me out I can't flip it and Rob Lowe apparently can.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:54 AM on February 27, 2015


Yeah, the surprising thing here isn't that our color perception is affected by context. We've known about things like the Checkerboard Shadow Illusion for a while. But illusions of this sort generally affect everyone the same way. It's surprising to come across a case where the lighting is ambiguous enough to create very different perceived colors in different people.
posted by baf at 11:55 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wanna see white and gold again and it's bumming me out I can't flip it

Pretend the light in the background is the setting sun. Poof, white and gold.
posted by KathrynT at 11:57 AM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder where people put the original image on a scale of 1 to 10 between these two images from the Wallasch blog, with 1 being on the left and 10 being on the right.

Because the image on the left I can see as swear-up-and-down white (maybe a teensy blue if I'm pushed), and lace that could never in a million years be called black. For that image, I'm 99% a goldwhiter. But the original image looks very far from that, and much closer to the image on the right.
posted by nom de poop at 12:04 PM on February 27, 2015


Did anyone elae ever have one of those youthful, late-night (possibly under-the-influence) philosophical discussions: "Whoa, what if what *I* call red is not what YOU call red?"
I feel like this is some variation of that.
Also, when I first encountered this on twitter last night, I saw both the rod/cone info and a post that it supposedly had to do with the mood you were in when you viewed the picture. I desperately wanted to believe the latter cos I saw white/gold ("people in a good mood see this"), and didnt want to be reminded I'm getting older, withv vision problems.
posted by NorthernLite at 12:06 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


In desjardins's link with the three photos, as I scrolled to the bottom, the last was very, very briefly white at the top. Once I saw last photo fully, however, it resolved to a very light blue.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 12:08 PM on February 27, 2015


Did anyone elae ever have one of those youthful, late-night (possibly under-the-influence) philosophical discussions: "Whoa, what if what *I* call red is not what YOU call red?"

One of my FB friends commented, "Jesus Christ the philosophy majors were right. Nothing is real, existence is purely subjective, my green is your purple, we're all aimlessly floating through an ever-changing void of random chaos, and it's only through sheer dumb luck that traffic lights have ever worked."
posted by Jacqueline at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you want to see both, it helps to put the bottom half over the top half and increase the contrast. /selflink, do forgive please
posted by rahnefan at 12:15 PM on February 27, 2015


OH MY GOD. maudlin's link to the Las Vegas Review Journal broke my brain for a few moments. It totally white and golded me. Despite trying for the better part of a day I had never seen it look white and gold except with the drastically color "corrected" versions. It never changed no matter the background color or the ambient lighting. I've tried bright rooms, dark rooms, night outdoors, overcast, sunny, CFL bulbs, halogen bulbs, and plain ol' incandescent.

After looking at the SMH link and going back, though, it went right back to being black and blue, but strangely a much paler looking blue about half the time I switch tabs. Normally it looks like a well saturated blue to me. That one time, though, the blue just fucking disappeared entirely, as if my preferences got reset to use the professional white theme.
posted by wierdo at 12:27 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


On maudlin's link, one pic has this caption: Stripes, out of context: One now unambiguously looks like blue, the other like brown.
What? I see blue and black. Like, not the deepest black of outer space, closer to the black of an old sock. Still black.
posted by soelo at 12:36 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


The image in this Slate article (I don't think it was linked) is the best so far.
posted by jeather at 12:42 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can't see White and Gold. Is it because I can't picture the background as anything but broad daylight?
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:52 PM on February 27, 2015


Yay! Oh my God, thank you so much, weirdo! It worked for me, too! I've looked at that exact link forty times before, but I took a quick break to watch The Hardly Boys and when I came back I tried your suggestion, and it worked this time! I put my thang down flip it and now I see the world like Rob Lowe! Hooray! Damn y'all but it is time for the work week to concluuuuude.
posted by Don Pepino at 12:53 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


This "What color is the dress?" confusion results from a fundamental misunderstanding of how color works. Your eyes are passive, like your ears, not active like your sense of touch. Your eyes don't go out into the world and grab colors. I taught color theory for years, and to help students understand this concept I used the analogy of sound. So imagine speakers set up in a room playing an orchestral sound. Imagine the orchestra is so balanced that you can't hear individual instruments--just that "orchestra" sound that you hear at the end of a piece, when everyone plays at once. Now imagine that the speakers are pointed away from you, so most of the sound you hear is bouncing off a wall in the distance. Now imagine that a couple of guys walk between the speakers and the wall carrying a mattress. All of a sudden you can hear some of the instruments--let's say the trumpets and trombones. Would you say that the mattress contained trumpets and trombones? Of course not. The mattress only has the capability of absorbing some sounds and reflecting others. Different objects--metal, wood, etc., would absorb and reflect different sounds. So it is with color. Objects don't "contain" color. Color comes from a light source--ordinarily the sun, or man-made light sources. That "orchestra" sound is like "white" light. The colors are in there, but they're all playing at once, so you only see white. But when that white light bounces off an object, say a red dress, the dress absorbs the green part of the spectrum (to simplify) and reflects red back to your eye. We call the dress "red" because light travels too fast for us to understand the analogy with sound, but in reality the dress is no more red than the mattress is a trumpet or trombone. In fact, if you thought about it, you'd realize that if the red is reflected by the dress, then the dress isn't red. If you put the red dress in a photographic darkroom and turned off all the lights, the dress would have no color--it is the visual equivalent of silence. If you turned the stereo off, would you say the orchestra is still in the wall but you just can't hear it? Of course not. But many people would say of the dress in the darkroom that the red is still there but you just can't see it. Nonsense. Your eyes are open. There is no red, because there is no light. So the blue and gold dress that everyone is talking about has no color of its own--only the colors that it is capable of reflecting given certain lighting conditions. Humans have a persistence of vision --we want to keep the red dress and the blue & gold dress the same colors despite different lighting conditions, but if you were to see the red dress under a green light, it would be gray or black. So it is with the blue and white dress--it can be a lot of different colors depending on the light source, and whether it is reflected light you are seeing or transmitted light, as on your monitor. So in a way everybody is right--the dress can be many combinations of color--but in a technical sense, nobody is right, because the dress is like the mattress--it doesn't "contain" a color--our eyes are seeing a selection of reflected light from a selected light source, and that can change for every situation--indoors, outdoors, on a monitor, etc. And black is technically not a color--it is the visual equivalent of silence. When you turn the stereo off, the sound isn't "still there but you can't hear it." It's gone. The reason we "see" a deep black--like black velvet, for example, is because it interrupts the background. It's like hearing a gap of silence in the music. You don't really "hear" anything, but you notice it. And yes, when I see a black car, I call it a black car. In fact, I own a black car, and I have never lost it. In everyday life, we assume that objects "contain" a fixed color, even though they don't.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


The last time a dress created such a fuss it was all about semen stains
posted by night_train at 1:34 PM on February 27, 2015






It just flipped for me. It was white and gold the whole time earlier today then I watched a couple youtube videos came back and it's now blue and black. Concerned I might be having a small stroke...
posted by PenDevil at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2015


All of you people who are changing levels of the pic: it is meaningless if you don't use LAB color space. You have to alter the lightness separately of the color, which is not happening in any of the "adjusted" pics. If you change brightness in RGB mode, you are merely using a preset proportion to change R G and B channels together. That changes the color. You might as well change it to CMYK, it's useless.

Just as an experiment, I altered the Lightness channel only, to make the image brighter or darker, although that is a very poor description of what LAB does. I am curious what people think of it. I see it as white and gold. Every version I have seen is white and gold.

Edit: I mislabeled the pics and deleted the images. I will repost shortly. Darn it, I will have to do it all over again.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:00 PM on February 27, 2015


Lilac and light brown. Sorry, charlie.
posted by maudlin at 2:01 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK here is the fixed album in LAB mode. Sorry about that, I had the wrong histograms on the images.

And yes maudlin, by "white and gold" I mean a light lilac color close to white, and a golden color closer to brown. Definitely not blue and black.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:16 PM on February 27, 2015


charlie - those three pictures looks like different amounts of bright light shining on a blue and black dress, to me. Is that what you were trying to show me?
posted by sparklemotion at 2:18 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, sparklemotion, that is what I am trying to determine. Changing the lightness in LAB mode is more accurate than just doing levels in photoshop or whatever. I included the compressed L channel because that emphasizes the range of the midtones, I don't think I have seen that done yet.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:25 PM on February 27, 2015


Maybe this has to do with me washing my black socks with my white shirts
posted by Hoopo at 2:30 PM on February 27, 2015


Ok for a heartbeat I just saw pale lilac and what I would call a tea-stained, mucky grey and then it switched back to lovely cornflower blue and faded black. Disturbing!
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:42 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ha, OkCupid have changed their logo so it switches periodically from blue to gold. Well played.
posted by ersatz at 2:46 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh my dog these people are fast.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:52 PM on February 27, 2015


I can JUST get it to go blue and black by looking at it only out of the corner of my eye. I keep trying to sneak up on it, either slowly or in a pounce, but every time I look at it head-on it's white and gold again.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:01 PM on February 27, 2015


cotton dress sock, does that mean that you instantly saw the arrow in the FedEx logo? I was blissfully unaware of it for over a decade!
posted by wierdo at 3:02 PM on February 27, 2015


It just flipped back to white and gold. I don't know what is real anymore.
posted by PenDevil at 3:03 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you've only seen a blue and black dress and are disappointed and think your life might be better if you could just once see a white and gold dress, click on the Las Vegas Review Journal link and tilt the top of your monitor down. Voila: the blue and black dress will change to awhite dress with brassy gold lace trim. Now return the monitor to true while thinking to yourself, "I'm inside a store looking at a dress in the window, and I can see the parking lot outside. The light inside the store is low and blue. The light outside is very bright." The dress should stay white and gold for you for a second or two before slowly turning back to blue and black before your horrified eyes. You can, if you try, convince yourself that the brown bar thing extending to the right from the dress's left hip is window trim.
posted by Don Pepino at 3:26 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


It just flipped back as I was looking at it. Do I need to go to the ER?
posted by PenDevil at 3:28 PM on February 27, 2015


does that mean that you instantly saw the arrow in the FedEx logo?

No! Just checked - this is the first I've heard of it. You're referring to the negative space thing? I actually have no idea to what extent I favour that in regular, adult life, vs. at age 8, while doing a weirdly pressured puzzle of red and white triangles with a dude staring at me :/ It might be meaningful, or not... I think I can confidently say I do tend to notice formal arrangements, though, i.e., shapes and their relationships, kind of thing.) That's neat, though!
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:36 PM on February 27, 2015


No it isn't.
posted by Evilspork at 3:41 PM on February 27, 2015


Metafilter breakage?
posted by mudpuppie at 3:59 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The explanation that makes the most sense to me is that the blown-out top right corner is a misleading visual cue that causes the white/gold interpretation. This, combined with a seriously overexposed photo with the wrong color balance, creates the illusion.

When I first saw the photo, the dress was white and gold to me. Maybe a light blue. I assumed I was looking at something backlit by the late afternoon sun, and the blue cast was the reflected light of the sky. In that case, the blue-grey color was consistent with the color of snow in the shade. I've taken a lot of skiing photos. I can tell you I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of properly exposed and color balanced photos where large areas of shaded snow are a darker and more saturated blue than the light portions of the dress.

This is an extreme example of what I'm talking about. Averaging the RGB values for the snow in the shade I get 1R 20G 88B. That's a totally saturated navy blue. But obviously snow is white, not navy blue. This isn't a manipulated photo, by the way. This is a faithful scan of a print I made from a color negative. The paper and the film are both considered "normal saturation" media, suitable for portraiture. This was even taken with a skylight filter, which is intended to make things in the shade appear less blue. I actually have some test strips and some other prints I made of this photo, and when the snow in the shade approaches as neutral a tone as the blue on the dress, the rest of the photo is a completely blown out orangish mess.

Believe it or not, the snow in the shadow in this photo is a better match for the blue on the dress. It is slightly less saturated and slightly lighter, but only by a tiny amount. Making the shaded snow match the dress perfectly is a trivial and barely noticeable adjustment.

So after sleeping on it, the dress was suddenly blue and black, though I had long since intellectually accepted that it was actually a blue and black dress. Now it's blue and black seemingly permanently, and I can overlay it over a photo of snow that is darker and bluer than the dress, and still see it as a blue and black dress.

Brains are strange.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:04 PM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


From Facebook's data science team: All About That Dress: "We see that men are significantly more likely to perceive the dress as black and blue; so are younger people, and people on a desktop instead of a phone. Finally, as the night went on and more people knew the truth, people gravitated -- at least publicly -- towards the winning team."
posted by effbot at 4:23 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why has the significant question been lost in the color debate?

Isn't that dress truly hideous?

Why are people failing to address this?
posted by BlueHorse at 4:30 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I didn't see this until this afternoon and, wow, this is a long thread.

While there are a number of contributing factors, both objective and subjective, it seems clear that the biggest effect here is how an individual's brain on a given viewing interprets the implicit lighting conditions of the photo. It's mostly all about the "bright, possibly daylight, backlighting with the dress relatively in shadow" versus "bright, overexposed front lighting, with the dress's color washed-out" perceptual interpretations.

But there are a number of contributing factors and these are certainly playing a role in the diversity of experience and how that experience can change for the same person over time. People's viewing screens are going to vary and that's going to cue people differently. People's viewing conditions are going to vary, and that will also cue them differently. And people's proximate viewing context will vary, too, and in ways that will cue them differently (everything from what they were just looking at, to whether they were primed by someone else about what to think about the image).

Because there's a fairly strong perceptual color constancy effect happening here that's primarily about interpreting the lighting as background or foreground, but which is sensitive to sum total of all these various cues that tip it one way or another, the result is a fairly strong and stable bimodal distribution with a smaller group of people who find they shift from one perception to the other.

It seems to me that it would be possible to subtly alter the photo in Photoshop or maybe even AfterEffects where the lighting of the dress is almost unchanged (it would end up being changed some) but the surrounding cues are sufficiently changed such that people much more reliably will see it one way or the the other, depending how those cues are altered. I'd start with that upper right corner, but also just add or remove stuff around the periphery that implies to us precisely how the dress was lit.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:39 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


We see that men are significantly more likely to perceive the dress as black and blue; so are younger people, and people on a desktop instead of a phone

I'm female, closer to 40 than 30, first saw the picture on a phone, and completely unable to see white and gold despite trying multiple screens over the past 20 or so hours, and understanding on an intellectual level that I need to imagine that the dress is backlit by the setting sun or some other light source so that the white looks blue in the "shade".

I also have no trouble with magic eye pictures and I love cilantro.
posted by sparklemotion at 4:41 PM on February 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't see the blue/black dress, no matter what kind of screen I'm on or what brightness it's set to. What are some things I can try, or am I doomed to be wrong forever?
posted by tzikeh at 6:49 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Still gold and white. Can't make it change.

Now I know how conservative Republicans feel.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:59 PM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Just about every World of Warcraft server just went down simultaneously. Kinda unusual, especially on a Friday night.

User quote from one of the many, many, many forum threads about it:

"The devs got into a heated argument over what color a dress was. A scuffle broke out and someone got thrown into a server rack. These things happen sometimes."
posted by Evilspork at 8:07 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I printed out a photocopy of the (to me) white and gold dress at work tonight. Hmm. Still white and gold when it emerged from the printer. I stuck it in my bag, left the building, and while walking through the dark parking lot took a breath, shook my head, and pulled the photocopy from my bag. And yelped. The dress was now black and blue. Am home now, in bright light, and the damn dress is still black and blue.
posted by goofyfoot at 8:08 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Now I know how conservative Republicans feel.

Presumably they're all waiting for Obama to chime in before proclaiming the opposite.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:20 PM on February 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


> What I don't understand about the white/gold people is how they read a shadow in there, if that's what they're doing. How it could be so selectively on that dress ...

Looking out of a window on a bright day with interior objects in the foreground is a really common experience, as are photographs taken indoors in the same circumstances. In this situation, exterior objects will be really bright and washed out, and interior objects will be dark. A lot of people's brains are automatically applying color corrections that work in that situation, and that's what they see.

There's very little information in the photograph to tell whether the dress is in deep shadow, light shade or bright light as opposed to the obviously bright and washed-out background, so we see different colors according to which default interpretation our perceptual system opts for. All of these are reasonable interpretations in a lot of familiar situations and lighting environments, and we usually agree about what we're seeing when more cues are available to figure out the lighting and what the colors are.
posted by nangar at 8:47 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just got home and was met with a blurb on CTV news about the dress. My parents were watching it and my Dad questioned it, not really understanding what it was about. I explained that it started yesterday and spread like crazy and that I had spend an hour looking at the thing last night and could only see blue and black. My Mom said she saw it on facebook. My cousin had posted it and he could only see white and gold.
My engineer Dad's skepticism kicked in big time and he started asking loads of questions as my Mom pulled up the facebook post.

I said yep, still blue and black. She said she was white and gold at first and then it changed right before her eyes. Dad demanded to see it and she turned the laptop.
"It's white and gold' he stated." That's not the same dress they showed on the tv." ( They showed the designed and the actual dress in the newscast).
I said, "Yeah it is. I see it as blue and black. That's the weird thing."
He asked to see it again. So Mom turned it. He got the funniest expression on his face. "Er it's changed."

This led to several more viewings and me ending up in laughing manically as his world fell apart. It kept changing for him and he ended up sitting on the couch looking quite dumbfounded.

"How do I know that what I'm seeing is really what you look like?" He asked. "I'm not going to sleep tonight wondering about this."

Poor Dad. Muhaha. This dress thing is the best.
posted by Jalliah at 8:57 PM on February 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


This morning it was clearly white and gold. Then I looked later in the day and boom: blue and black. But what really freaked me out is I just looked again and it returned to white and gold. What in the ever living fucking fuck.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:26 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Me & whole family spontaneously 100% white-and-gold (on phone, in varying lighting conditions). Despite now knowing that it's actually blue-and-black, and having looked at all the doctored/cropped pictures and illustrations linked here, my brain refuses to do the gestalt switch. I can get it to tingle the tiniest bit, now and then, but the mainly the "gold" is too devoid of black hints, and the real blue is impossibly intense to factor from the white-in-shade/pale-periwinkle for my first impression to crack.
So, what does this say about my brain? (Wittgenstein's duck-rabbit was my freshman fetish, so it's intellectually and emotionally unsettling to feel locked-in.)
posted by progosk at 10:41 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


orange


.
posted by philip-random at 11:59 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


After over a day of seeing nothing but blue and black (dusty cornflower blue and dull olive green, really), I've found a way that I can consistently see a backlit gold and white (-ish / enshadowed) dress.

It's the slightly enlarged version on Buzzfeed's Taylor Swift article that suddenly worked for me when it was still mostly out of view and I was reading the very top of the article. If I put >80% of the image below the bottom of the screen (leaving only a part with the blown-out light in view on the right), then look up to the top of the screen, and then tell myself that there's a backlit dress out in the sun down at the edge of what my eyes can see, then boom--it's exactly what white and gold folks have been describing, except I'm only able to do that for the top of the image.

There's still no way for me to look at the image dead on and see anything but blue and black, and there's some sort of threshold angle where it starts to work. So I'd guess I'm using the density variation of rods and cones to vary the signal and cross a tipping point, though I agree with folks above saying that's probably not a matter of general relevance--it's just how I happen to be cueing my visual cortex or whatever to do its weird thing and flip how it interprets the lighting.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:49 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's still never stopped being white and gold to me, viewing the photo(s) in various sites/apps and time of day. I'm disappointed.

However, I can reliably trigger one partial perceptual shift. This only happened when I was about three-quarters through this thread earlier this afternoon -- if I turn my head to the left and look at the white wall next to me but still keep the monitor in my peripheral vision, the dress I can see in my peripheral vision is noticeably a lot darker and seems close to (but not quite) the blue and black other people report. It doesn't stick when I look directly at the photo, but it's a very real difference and I'll take what I can get.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:53 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


blue and black (dusty cornflower blue and dull olive green, really)

This is one of the most confounding things about this conversation: I am not sure if people that say "blue and black" are really seeing it as blue and black so much as blue and [something that must be darker than what is pictured, but may even have some saturation], which is just not normally how I interpret the color word "black".
posted by Jpfed at 6:14 AM on February 28, 2015


So for the blue and black people, are you seeing the original photo just like the one where the dress is being worn? Because I'm in the white and gold group for the original photo and blue black for the second photo. Like there's no conceivable way I can think of these as photos of the same object.

It's really amazing.
posted by odinsdream at 8:12 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


So for the blue and black people, are you seeing the original photo just like the one where the dress is being worn?

Not at all. The dress being worn is a saturated blue and black. I would call it maybe a dark periwinkle blue. In the original photo, the black is more washed out (dark gray / brownish maybe) and the blue is paler. Some have said cornflower blue, with maybe some lilac. But, definitely light blue. And to be clear, not "I can kind of see a hint of blue in that white dress" but "that's a light blue dress."
posted by The Deej at 8:39 AM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


The real problem is it's a terrible picture with terrible lighting and all kinds of jpg artifacts.

I would say this is hugely significant. The flash of light in the upper right corner, for example, is almost all 250,250,250 and up white. If you use the paint bucket tool in MSPAINT, you can identify all of the huge swathes of the image where JPEG compression just went "fuck it, the human eye won't miss this part." That's a huge understated part of this I would think, that an algorithm that is specifically designed to allow the user to tune how much a human "shouldn't notice" fundamentally is based in some awareness of the very suddenly interesting whoa-nature of the "perceptual boundary" and "illuminance vs. reflectivity" discussion.
posted by aydeejones at 9:02 AM on February 28, 2015


Also this all has to tie in with tetrachromacy
posted by aydeejones at 9:02 AM on February 28, 2015


Also also, much of the flash of light is pure 100% Red = 255, Green = 255, Blue = 255 on a scale of 0-255 "whiteness," which we've calibrated with whatever screen we're looking at as "the holiest bright flash of whiteness ever."
posted by aydeejones at 9:04 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


aydeejones: I think the damage started even earlier than that: the fact that something which was originally black ended up as gold/orange suggests that the camera's processor misread the lighting and severely over-processed the sensor data to match the wrong curve. That would leave lots of the image near the extremes of the dynamic range even before the JPEG processor starts looking for areas to remove detail.
posted by adamsc at 10:21 AM on February 28, 2015


I am not sure if people that say "blue and black" are really seeing it as blue and black so much as blue and [something that must be darker than what is pictured, but may even have some saturation], which is just not normally how I interpret the color word "black".

Speaking just as one blue/black viewer, it's the latter, but the reasons to call it black are threefold: (1) it was the only choice on the Buzzfeed poll that fit; (2) we're used to seeing black outfits suddenly have non-matching blacks, including greenish colors, in different lighting, but we still go along with calling that black; and (3) it's instantly clear in the photo that the dress would be blue and black if seen in person.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:04 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Update: I've been in the white/gold camp the whole time. But the only times I looked at the dress were after the sun had gone down. I tried shining different colored lights on it and it didn't change. But today, with sunlight shining on my shiny, dusty laptop screen, the dress looks totally black and blue!

I think the difference that my eyes can't see any of the lacy detail in these lighting conditions. The lace looks like solid bands with wavy edges. It was the red/yellow tones on the lace that kept my brain from accepting the "black" idea, even after I had seen other photos of the dress.
posted by mantecol at 11:12 AM on February 28, 2015


it's instantly clear in the photo that the dress would be blue and black if seen in person.

I actually think that the nonexistent white and gold dress that I see when I look at the picture would be much more attractive than the blue and black dress that actually exists.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:33 AM on February 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've seen both "light cornflower"/brown and "royal blue"/"soft black" (after initially seeing white/gold for a few hours). They looked different to me. Not sure if it was a screen/lighting issue.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:45 AM on February 28, 2015


I have learned from this how terrible people are at reasoning.
posted by Miko at 12:05 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like the NYT's graphic about this.
posted by Miko at 12:12 PM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ah, right, so there really are three options.
posted by unknowncommand at 12:32 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


it's instantly clear in the photo that the dress would be blue and black if seen in person.

Yes, that's why there are nearly 900 comments here discussing this, millions of Buzzfeed hits, and a handful of articles about this dress and other optical illusions on just about every single news website: because it's obvious and no one sees anything at all different.
posted by jeather at 12:37 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, that's why there are nearly 900 comments here discussing this, millions of Buzzfeed hits, and a handful of articles about this dress and other optical illusions on just about every single news website: because it's obvious and no one sees anything at all different.

I think if you look at that comment again, you'll see that it's a report of a subjective impression, and it's absolutely true that my subjective impression of the photo included an instantaneous sense that the darker portion of the dress would be black in person. If you can't interpret the comment that way, then perhaps we've uncovered a new divide in the population: one that can only imagine people believe themselves to be speaking in objective absolutes and another that can perceive implied reports of perspectival differences. ;)
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:45 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, for goodness sake, I disclaimed speaking for other blue/black viewers, much less other people.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


if I had time before midnight on Monday, I think all this dress controversy would make an excellent theme for the Peeps Diorama Contest. If I don't make it, could someone else see that my dream of a dress-themed diorama with Peeps is brought to fruition? For the good of all of us.
posted by daisystomper at 1:28 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am not sure if people that say "blue and black" are really seeing it as blue and black so much as blue and [something that must be darker than what is pictured, but may even have some saturation], which is just not normally how I interpret the color word "black".

When it "switched" from white/gold to blue/black for me I wouldn't say that the lace looked "black" in itself, but it looked like something I would immediately guess at being black. If you look at photos of "black" clothing you're mostly seeing varieties of brown. But the point is that when I'd been seeing it as white/gold it had seemed simply inconceivable to me that the "gold" could be read as "black" in any possible frame of reference. It was just baffling--and when the gestalt switch happened it seemed simply self-evident that this was a photograph of black lace.

So it's not simply "oh, I've persuaded myself that under the right lighting effects something that is black could have this goldish color in a photograph"--it's that it just "looks" self-evidently like a "photograph-of-black-material" where it looked, before, self-evidently like a "photograph of gold material." It really is freaky.
posted by yoink at 1:43 PM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


orange

yeah, that's right!
posted by en forme de poire at 2:42 PM on February 28, 2015


"I've seen both 'light cornflower'/brown and 'royal blue'/'soft black' (after initially seeing white/gold for a few hours). They looked different to me. Not sure if it was a screen/lighting issue.

I share some of the frustration of others here with some folk who insist that the actual pixel colors are the "true" colors in the image and who therefore cannot believe that anyone would report white or black and that, I guess, they think they are just wildly exaggerating.

Color is synthesized in our brains. It isn't real. It's not simply the wavelength of light -- many colors we perceive don't even correspond to a particular wavelength of light.

The colors we perceive of the dress when we see it in person are synthesized in our heads on the basis of both the relative amounts of stimulation of our four varieties of photoreceptors in our eyes and a whole bunch of contextual processing done in the visual perception parts of our brains.

And this is just as true of the colors we perceive of an image on our computer screen. A given pixel may have a particular set of values in the image and then in the software, and be realized as a set of relative RGB brightness values for a pixel on the monitor, but just as in the real world, the brain makes sense of this in context.

My evaluation of people's attested "blue and black" impressions are that, no, they're not seeing a deep black. But they are seeing something that really and truly looks "black" to them (in a somewhat washed-out way) and not that they are explicitly thinking "that looks brownish but I'm guessing that it is black". That's not what's happening. Likewise, those of us who report "white and gold" are not seeing a bright white, but a shadowed white with a slight blueish cast. It has some blue in it, the same way the black for others has some brown in it, but our actual experience is that, "that's white/black".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:16 PM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


NOTHING makes this look blue and black to me. I can't make it change. I can see how people could "read" it and say "if I saw this (badly photographed) dress in real life, it would look blue and black"...but the original photo just doesn't look that way. The photo looks pale blue and dark gold. Is this something my brain just doesn't do?
posted by librosegretti at 3:22 PM on February 28, 2015


My evaluation of people's attested "blue and black" impressions are that, no, they're not seeing a deep black. But they are seeing something that really and truly looks "black" to them (in a somewhat washed-out way) and not that they are explicitly thinking "that looks brownish but I'm guessing that it is black".

Yeah. When I couldn't see it, I was grilling my husband about it because, like, yes white satin looks like shit under certain kinds of light, and when you say "blue" do you mean "blue-ish" etc. But my husband makes videos for a living, he knows about white and lighting and he knows what white that's been screwed up by lighting looks like. He kept saying "no, medium blue, crayon blue, not bad lighting blue."

When it finally switched for me, I literally exclaimed out loud in shock, because I was absolutely certain everyone was just being shits about technically you could call it blue. Nah, it's BLUE. Yes, the black does look like that really crappy black dye that turns babyshit brown the first time you clean it, but the blue is blue. Blue. Non-negotiably blue.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:29 PM on February 28, 2015 [4 favorites]




My evaluation of people's attested "blue and black" impressions are that, no, they're not seeing a deep black. But they are seeing something that really and truly looks "black" to them (in a somewhat washed-out way) and not that they are explicitly thinking "that looks brownish but I'm guessing that it is black". That's not what's happening.

Hm, barring memory/hindsight tricks of the mind, that actually was pretty close to my initial experience. I opened up the Buzzfeed page, perceived a dress that was mostly a dusty cornflower blue, saw its trim that read as dull olive drab because of front/overhead lighting and that would read as black if it weren't illuminated the same way (such a common problem with black fabric, plus the way it darkened further down felt like confirmation, plus who the heck would wear a dusty cornflower and dull olive dress), and selected blue and black on the poll because it was the best available answer. My thought was along the lines, "Well, if blue and dull olive drab were an option, I'd have a choice to make about how to answer, but this would be blue and black in person, so blue and black it is."

I understand it's most likely a coincidence that it does look blue and black under other conditions, and certainly I'm not going to mock up light source models to investigate the ambiguity of highlights and gradients in the image as if there might be proof of a correct reading, because I doubt there is one. But subjectively, that was the logic of it, and the inference of blackness seemed clear at the time.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:56 PM on February 28, 2015


Only ever saw the dress as white & (ugly) gold, and then while reading the NYT article about it in a darkened-by-curtains room, the next time I glanced at the photo it was clearly blue-and-black. The hairs went up on the back of my neck!

I didn't think it would ever switch for me! Though, every time I first see the image, I still see white & gold, but if I focus on some of the darker background items, then the colors will switch. This is the best thing ever! And one time I watched as the colors switched from white & gold to blue-and-black, like a Polaroid. It felt like I was hallucinating and I needed a shot of Haldol.
posted by honey badger at 4:16 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I anxiously check this every now and then waiting for it to switch to blue and black, but it hadn't happened yet. I may do this for the rest of my life.
posted by odinsdream at 4:25 PM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Hm, barring memory/hindsight tricks of the mind, that actually was pretty close to my initial experience."

I totally didn't intend to make the same mistake in the other direction. There's a real perceptual differentiation with this photo and while some people like yourself will consciously interpret it as "blue and black" while subjectively experiencing something that isn't much "blue and black" at all, there's a large number of people who truly experience it as "blue and black" in a way that you and others (including myself) are not. Given that many people have attested to it changing right before their eyes, an analysis that waves away other people's attested experiences as being inadequately described conscious processes of interpretation of what it "really" looks like is a fundamental error, as well as being annoying.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:25 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


odinsdream - Same here. I've saved the dress.jpg locally so I can even more easily look at it once in a while.
posted by shortfuse at 4:32 PM on February 28, 2015


FWIW, I was saying that maybe "light cornflower"/brown is a third state, somewhere between "royal blue"/"soft black" and white/gold. One where the brain infers less about the lighting, as opposed to inferring shadow or daylight.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:33 PM on February 28, 2015


Given that many people have attested to it changing right before their eyes, an analysis that waves away other people's attested experiences as being inadequately described conscious processes of interpretation of what it "really" looks like is a fundamental error, as well as being annoying.

Oh, sure, yeah. It sounds maybe like you're describing a problem we both felt about isolated remarks that it's blue and [dark color] matching samples from Photoshop, but I took those optimistically as expressions of perspective rather than flat denials of others' experiences.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:34 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is this something my brain just doesn't do?

I think so. I can't perceive it as blue and black, though I can force myself to imagine it as blue and black. I think people with more experience with photography can mentally reverse its effects without consciously thinking.
posted by Jpfed at 5:43 PM on February 28, 2015


I've been thinking sort of in terms of a Kinsey scale of perception for this, using these images...

So the question is if the top image, on first glance, strikes you as option 1 (Blue-Black) with a flash of light, or option 2 (White-Gold) in shadow and then the spectrum is:

1 - Obviously/ easily option 1 (BB)
2 - Probably / possibly option 1 (BB)
3 - If forced to choose, I'll go with option 1 (BB)
4 - If forced to choose, I'll go with option 2 (WG)
5 - Probably / possibly option 2 (WG)
6 - Obviously / easily option 2 (WG)

And if you choose one of the middle numbers, is that because
A - NEITHER option seems intuitive [you would have thought the dress was actually light blue and brown]
B - BOTH options seem intuitive [ it's immediately obvious to you the photo's a mindfuck]

I started as a 6 and have tried everything to see the other side and the best I can seem to achieve is sometimes I'm more of a 4A. But I've done all the tricks and can't break through to actually seeing blue and black. I'm starting to feel hopeless...
posted by mdn at 5:50 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Looking at the photo directly, it has never changed for me even a little bit (okay, well, I do see a very subtle effect when I do the partiallly visible scroll upwards versus scroll downwards thing), but the peripheral vision thing causes a very noticeable change of colors for me -- in my peripheral vision I see a mass of a medium blue and something pretty dark, quite different from what I see when I look at the photo directly. I have always totally believed the people who report the blue and black version, but it was satisfying to experience the actual effect.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:21 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The fact that we are still talking about this shows that it is, in fact, a pretty disturbing demonstration of how weird perception is. It's not something as obvious as a figure/ground reversal (sorry, XKCD got this totally wrong). Having now seen it both ways it seems to be some kind of color perception equivalent of a Necker cube; anybody can see it either way, and the way you see it is somewhat random. The startling thing is that, like other illusions, the two ways of seeing it are so subjectively different despite being views of the same source. There is probably something very interesting about color perception to be learned from this.
posted by localroger at 6:41 PM on February 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


There is probably something very interesting about color perception to be learned from this.

There is, except I don't think it's new learning, except to people who've never encountered it. Cognitive psychologists studying perception have constructed bunches of artificial demonstrations that produce this effect using optical illusions; we've just never really had an organic, in-the-wild, viral demonstration of what the theories have already predicted as true. This effect has been noticed in studies and the varying perceptions have been predicted - just not something most people have ever encountered before.
posted by Miko at 7:57 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Cognitive psychologists studying perception have constructed bunches of artificial demonstrations that produce this effect using optical illusions

Hm. Can you suggest some where people who initially report seeing one thing and then, upon seeing it the other way, can't get back to seeing it the way they did at first, but the folks who see the other thing never see the first? Or any that combine with the astronomer's trick of looking at things off-center (leveraging more rods and changing the brightness) to cause some people but not others to get different percepts?

I might have assumed they exist, if someone had asked me last week, but given the confusion expressed by the researchers consulted for the Wired piece, the pure speculation one of them offers about things like night owls perhaps leaning one way and larks another, and the multiple phenomena being reported in this thread, I'm not sure.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:17 PM on February 28, 2015


We could view this as a version of the McCollough effect:
The McCollough effect is a phenomenon of human visual perception in which colorless gratings appear colored contingent on the orientation of the gratings. It is an aftereffect requiring a period of induction to produce it. For example, if someone alternately looks at a red horizontal grating and a green vertical grating for a few minutes, a black-and-white horizontal grating will then look greenish and a black-and-white vertical grating will then look pinkish. The effect is remarkable for often lasting an hour or more, and in some cases after prolonged exposure to the grids, the effect can last up to three and a half months.[1]
about which we had a very interesting thread almost three weeks ago, now.

Note that the perceived but actually absent "contingent" colors are complementary to the original colors in the description above.

In the case of the dress, the horizontal lines in the fabric of the dress supply the horizontal black lines of the grating, and while blue and gold are not complementary colors, purply blue and orangy gold are, and so we'd expect the effect to give an orangy gold wash to black regions if it were to be operating -- and, since the McCollough effect adds complementary colors to the background, adding that color to the background of the purply blue dress instead of to the black regions would tend to make them be perceived as much whiter.

According to this model then, the people who see the dress as white are adding the complementary color to the light regions of the dress, and the people who see the darker regions as orangy gold are adding the complementary color to the dark bands.

And one of the most striking features of the McCollough effect is that it's localized to particular regions of the retina itself, and that would account for the way the various colors vanish and reappear as people look from different angles.
posted by jamjam at 9:12 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Color constancy is pretty well understood, and I think that's definitely what's going on here, but all the illustrations I've seen of this have been some variation of 'Hey, this brown thing over here is exactly the same color as this blue thing over here'. I haven't seen or heard of any illustrations where the perceived colors actually flip back and forth the way they do in this image for a lot of people.

I think some people will be trying to create images with intentionally ambiguous cues about lighting to see if they can replicate what's happening here, and get the colors to flip reliably. I don't think anyone realized you could do that before.
posted by nangar at 9:36 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are people in this very thread who report seeing blue/black at first and then flipping to white/gold, so the flipping is going both ways.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:16 AM on March 1, 2015


Cognitive psychologists studying perception have constructed bunches of artificial demonstrations that produce this effect using optical illusions

Can you link to some? I can't think of a previous instance like this, where an image has been created that immediately, on first presentation, divides the audience roughly in half: "that's a picture of a Y-colored object" or "that's a picture of an X-colored object"--and then the perception flips, for most people, at some random point in the future.

I've seen lots of carefully created illusions that seem to rely on some of the same processes that are occurring with the perceptual conundrum over this dress, but I can't think of an image I've ever seen or heard of that works exactly as this dress does.

I mean, it's obviously related to the famous cylinder-on-checkerboard image, for example. But people's reactions to that image are completely reliable and predictable. No one initially and natively reads the "white" square that's under shadow as being the "same color" as the black square that's in full light. That's what makes the illusion so compelling when that fact is revealed. If everyone read this dress as "blue-black" on first encounter and then was stunned to learn the true color-values of the average pixels of "blue" bits and the average pixes of the "black" bits that would be similar. But that's not what happens here (or, not the main thing that is happening here).
posted by yoink at 7:06 AM on March 1, 2015


Cognitive psychologists studying perception have constructed bunches of artificial demonstrations that produce this effect using optical illusions

I think "this effect" is not appropriate wording here. There is a lot going on, and while individual parts may be demonstrated by one well-studied illusion or another, there is no one illusion that I'm aware of that does everything this picture does.
posted by Jpfed at 7:19 AM on March 1, 2015


Fair enough, there are multiple effects.

But no, I don't have time to troll around the web looking for visual-perception studies and arguing why they are or aren't like this. Google is your friend, and maybe Google Scholar is an even better friend. Most of my awareness of it comes from my cognitive psychology classes and some recent lectures in arts & neuroscience we've had where I work, so I'm not able to put my hand on anything directly and unfortunately don't have the time to devote to it today. But I really don't think we're learning something new. I think that scientists who study one aspect or another of perception are not so much disagreeing as seeing the footprints of the phenomenon they study here, like the blind men feeling the elephant, and the reporting is inexpert enoughm and so quickly produced, so as not to provide a complete synthesis. It would be a cool thing for a panel or symposium gathering together different specialists.
posted by Miko at 7:50 AM on March 1, 2015


I mean, at an obvious level, if anyone has a supported explanation for it, they have studied it.
posted by Miko at 7:55 AM on March 1, 2015


But no, I don't have time to troll around the web looking for visual-perception studies and arguing why they are or aren't like this. Google is your friend, and maybe Google Scholar is an even better friend.

In other words, no, you didn't actually have any parallel example in mind and nor could you think of one when you tried.
posted by yoink at 8:03 AM on March 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wonder if a big part of the novelty of this illusion is the fact that it relies on some practical knowledge of how things look when they are frontlit, backlit, overexposed, when the color temperatures of lighting sources don't match, etc. Not that you need fine-grained, articulable knowledge, but just that you need to have lived in a world with cameras and computer monitors in order to put your arms around the problem.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:08 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


In other words, no, you didn't actually have any parallel example in mind and nor could you think of one when you tried.

There's absolutely no need to be a jerk about this, yoink. I don't have anything readily to hand and don't have the available time to invest in digging stuff out and can't be shamed into making that time. But I do have the awareness that lots of this material exists, and have been through demonstrations of related phenomena myself, anyone who is deeply interested can certainly do so with a few hours to work at it. I encourage people to do so - to go beyond Wired et al. Use some search terms like "Visual perception studies" + "cognitive psychology" + "color." That is all I'm saying.
posted by Miko at 8:21 AM on March 1, 2015


I wonder if a big part of the novelty of this illusion is the fact that it relies on some practical knowledge of how things look when they are frontlit, backlit, overexposed, when the color temperatures of lighting sources don't match, etc.

I don't think so at all. If you read through this thread you'll find that lots of people who understand these things perfectly well (among whom I include myself) still experienced a powerful sense of gestalt-shift as the image "flipped" from white/gold to blue/black or vice versa.

What is interesting about this image is not the trivial fact of which 99% of the people in this thread are perfectly well aware--that colors in photographs are not the "same" as colors in real life, or that colors vary massively in different lighting conditions and that the brain does an extraordinary job of preserving a sense of the continuity of a "color" which is in fact being experienced as a wide range of different wavelengths etc.

The "puzzle" provided by this image is not, at all, one that gets "solved" by knowing the true color of the dress or by knowing what the lighting conditions of the photograph were or any of that stuff. The "puzzle" is that A) equally well-informed people pick up on very different perceptual cues in the image to read the dress as under bright light or as under shadow and B) that even when you "know" exactly how the image was formed your brain still flips back and forth between strikingly different subjective understandings of the image.
posted by yoink at 8:35 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have the same response to the grating illusions, as well as with cube illusions: they flip back and forth.
posted by Miko at 8:51 AM on March 1, 2015


There might be some food for thought in this thing on the role of probability reasoning in perception. See the "primer" section.

Bevil Conway, who wrote this piece about it, is one of the lecturers on the science of visual perception I recently heard.
posted by Miko at 8:59 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't think of a previous instance like this, where an image has been created that immediately, on first presentation, divides the audience roughly in half: "that's a picture of a Y-colored object" or "that's a picture of an X-colored object"--and then the perception flips, for most people, at some random point in the future.

I don't know, isn't this a lot like the Spinning Dancer illusion and other illusions involving multistable perception in general? I mean, that illusion isn't about colour obviously, but the internet has got me so exasperated with unprecedented phenomena that aren't right now. It's like The Culture is feeling just a bit fed up with being led astray by cynicism & scepticism and has decided to take it in the other direction, and get on board with anything that might turn out to be legit as soon as possible, from 'because'-as-a-preposition to the rebranding of Taylor Swift. And the media is delighted to offer us as much related content as we're prepared to click on. And I just feel like, yeah, OK, maybe. I'm not saying this isn't new or interesting, but I want some Scientists to talk it over for a while and get back to us in like a month with their final verdict on how remarkable it actually is. My enthusiasm is starting to feel too precious for some of this shit.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:20 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Looking again at it this morning, I really do think the all the strange features of the perceptions of the pictures of the dress are manifestations -- almost straightforward manifestations -- of the McCollough effect.

The basic elements for the effect are clearly in place: the lines separating the bands of the dress constitute the horizontal grating, and the bluish purple tone of the lighter parts of the dress constitutes the background color for the grating which is necessary for the effect to take place.

The illusory brownish gold color people perceive in the dark bands of the dress is the complementary color the McCollough effect adds to gratings with a given background color.

The fact that many people see different colors depending on whether they look at the picture of the dress directly or out of the corner of their eyes is accounted for by the localization of the effect to particular regions of the retina. In other words, the effect depends on sensitizing a particular region of your retina or retinas, and if you look at it in such a way that the image falls instead on a portion of your retina which has not been sensitized, you won't see it unless and until that part of your retina is sensitized as well.

The weird differences people experience when looking at the picture subsequent to their first look or by holding their heads at different angles are also baked into the McCollough effect:
The McCollough effect is remarkable because it is long-lasting. McCollough originally reported that these aftereffects may last for an hour or more.[2] They can last much longer than that, however. Jones and Holding (1975) found that 15 minutes of induction can lead to an effect lasting 3.5 months.[1]

The effect is different from colored afterimages, which appear superimposed on whatever is seen and which are quite brief. It depends on retinal orientation (tilting the head to the side by 45 degrees makes the colors in the above example disappear; tilting the head by 90 degrees makes the colors reappear such that the gravitationally vertical grating now looks green), and inducing the effect with one eye leads to no effect being seen with the other eye. However, there is some evidence of binocular interactions.[3]
I suggest reading the linked Wikipedia article; it's all laid out fairly well there.
posted by jamjam at 11:58 AM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Perhaps there are more up-to-date resources, but here's Pascal Wallisch (mentioned above) whose article got picked up in Slate:
While we must confess that we currently do not know why some people consistently see the dress one way, others consistently in another way, and some switch, it is remarkable that the switching happens on very long timescales. Usually, switching is fast, for instance in the Rubin’s vase stimulus above. This delay could be particular to color vision. There are no shortcuts other than to do research into the underlying reason that accounts for this striking difference in subjective perception.
Here's Cedar Riener, quoted at Buzzfeed:
Interestingly, scientists don’t know much about individual differences in perception, Riener said. “The individual differences tend not to receive as much attention from perceptual researchers, since we focus on how eyes work in general,” he said. “And in general, our eyes work very similarly, since we all live in an environment where the color of the light is generally the same shade of blue.”
Here's David Williams quoted at Vox:
The problem is that we still haven't explained a key mystery of this dress business. Why are different people's brains making vastly different assumptions about what's going on? After all, with most optical illusions, we're all fooled in the exact same way. But not here. [...] "My guess," Williams says, "is that the dress photo changes in color and lightness from person to person because their brains are making different unconscious assumptions about how the dress is illuminated." But that just moves the mystery back a step. Why are different people's brains making different assumptions about how the dress is illuminated?
Obviously, journalism published within a day or two of an event isn't the same as peer reviewed studies that have stuck around for decades or whatnot, but I think it's probably a mistake to say whatever's going on here has been well-established in labs. Do the multiple phenomena here include a color constancy effect? Very likely, but that's not what's striking about the phenomenon.

Just incidentally, since we're sharing backgrounds, I've had undergrad classes in psychology, cognitive psychology, cognitive anthropology, and a general course in cognitive studies, and then for a while I TA'ed / co-taught the class in cognitive studies, which routinely included a segment on color cognition and, in particular, color vocabulary, because that's the bit that anthropologists and linguists get excited about. I think those are all pretty crap qualifications, but it's enough for me to have meaningful doubts about whether the research on this is settled.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:12 PM on March 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I mean, really, you would not believe how much was unsettled about color vocabulary back then or how much of what people thought they knew was based on questionable stuff.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:21 PM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


THe McCollough effect says it needs a "period of induction" to cause it - this is immediate for everyone.

Also, as someone with epilepsy, I feel like I cannot even look at that wikipedia page without being concerned those images are hurting my brain. The dress is just a photo of a dress. I don't see any similarity.

I still can't see the black / blue version. It took me a few minutes to get the spinning dancer. I've been stupidly obsessed* with this dress for days now and it just won't flip.

*seriously, my partner has been teasing me about it - I've kept that page I linked to open in my browser and I check it every now and then, at different times of day, after reading different "tricks" - I can sort of understand why the gold might be blackish, and can sort of see how the pattern of the black and white in the corner is blackish, but it still doesn't look black, and though the white can look intuitively light blue at times, it does not look anything like royal blue ever. I have even wondered if the fact that Russian has different words for dark and light blue is evidence that I see those blues as more significantly distinct since I have some Russian family...
posted by mdn at 12:27 PM on March 1, 2015


Here's Cedar Riener, quoted at Buzzfeed:

Interestingly, scientists don’t know much about individual differences in perception, Riener said. “The individual differences tend not to receive as much attention from perceptual researchers, since we focus on how eyes work in general,” he said. “And in general, our eyes work very similarly, since we all live in an environment where the color of the light is generally the same shade of blue.”


Wow that is just SO wrong. Just because the sky is blue doesn't mean we are seeing by blue light.

Unless you are outside on an overcast day, most of the time the color of light is white or a bit yellowish. The color of sunlight varies continuously throughout the day. Apparently artists have figured this out even though scientists haven't. We have standard ways of judging color. I used to work as a color retoucher, we had a color-temperature controlled viewing booth for examining print proofs. Most of them are 5000K to simulate daylight, this is considered the standard for white light. There are little test swatches we used to check the lighting temperature, here is one standard, a GATF RHEM Light indicator. If you looked at it in the 5000K booth, you could see stripes of slightly different colors. If you took it out into the room under fluorescents or tungsten lamps, or even outside at the wrong time of day, you saw one uniform color. Unsurprisingly, there were a few people who were unable to distinguish the different colors even under the 5000K light. They generally weren't colorblind, their eyes just didn't have sufficient sensitivity.

The variability of the eye's color sensitivity has been known for millennia. For example, a common test is to look at Betelgeuse. Many people cannot see the red color, it just looks white. There are even tricks astronomers use to increase the sensitivity of the eye, sacrificing color and detail for sensitivity to faint light.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:08 PM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think those are all pretty crap qualifications, but it's enough for me to have meaningful doubts about whether the research on this is settled.
Chatting with three visual neuroscientists right now, I'd say you're quite right. I'm expecting a theme in everyone's outreach proposals for the next couple months, too…
posted by adamsc at 3:33 PM on March 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Stanley Kubrick would, he just would have.
posted by clavdivs at 3:37 PM on March 1, 2015


Thanks Monsieur Caution, that was a good collection of links. I liked Brad Plumer's article in Vox.
posted by nangar at 4:27 PM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know, isn't this a lot like the Spinning Dancer illusion and other illusions involving multistable perception in general?

I've never seen a bistable color illusion before.

Another thing that's different about it (to me) is that with other illusions, I can find the different interpretations quickly and toggle at will. Not this. I still haven't seen any black on that dress.
posted by Jpfed at 6:22 PM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, there won't be any arguments over the colors of these dresses.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:02 PM on March 1, 2015


I'll buy the night vision cones/rods argument. An informal survey of my roommate's friends and family has revealed that those with bad night vision all report seeing white and those with good night vision all report seeing blue.
posted by wrabbit at 8:26 PM on March 1, 2015


This LinkedIn post crossed my desk this morning, and went a long way towards explaining this entire affair to my satisfaction.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:49 PM on March 1, 2015


I'm seeing 39 colors and white & gold, so that's not making sense to me...
posted by mdn at 12:26 AM on March 2, 2015


mdn: I'm seeing 39 colors and white & gold, so that's not making sense to me...
Yeah, I was just having that conversation in another conference. Still fascinating to me that there might be a wide variation in how many colors people see in that graphic.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:35 AM on March 2, 2015


I'm seeing 39 colors and white & gold, so that's not making sense to me...

Could be your monitor :-)

But a more obvious explanation is that the test is crap; see e.g. this article which quotes actual scientists: "Unfortunately, computer screens do not provide enough colour information to be able to ‘tap into’ the extra dimension that tetrachromats may possess. It is therefore impossible for an online test to investigate tetrachromacy."

(but seriously, if you think this is white or this is black, you should probably not trust your eyes about anything :-)
posted by effbot at 1:55 AM on March 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Haha! I've only been able to see this as "white and gold" no matter what I do, over several days on different devices, blahblahblah. Okay, whatever.

But just now as I was flipping through open tabs looking for something, I come across the dress again, and OMG I TOTALLY SEE DEEP BLUE AND BLACK-BLACK IS THIS REALLY FINALLY HAPPENING TO MEEEEEEE?

But then I realized that I was looking at the "Levels adjusted" one on this page. *Sigh*
posted by taz at 7:36 AM on March 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


taz: "But then I realized that I was looking at the "Levels adjusted" one on this page. *Sigh*"

That exact thing has happened to me several times during this whole thing. Oh, I see it! Oh, wait, no that's the edited version again.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:20 AM on March 2, 2015


Taz, even when I "see" it as blue and black, I would say I am really only seeing how I could see it as blue and black.
posted by Miko at 8:20 AM on March 2, 2015


Just because I haven't seen this link posted yet: Mad Art Lab has some fun with photoshop, cutting the dress out away from the background, and pasting it (without changing the colors or brightness) into photos with different lighting contexts.

I was a "gold and whiter" at first, and have now seen it both ways many times, though it's not fully under my control which I see at any given time. (The "scroll up" vs "scroll down" thing helps, though.)

But I reliably see it as gold and white when pasted into the low-light photo at that link, and I reliably see it as blue and black when posted into the overexposed, bright-light photo. So that might work for some people who are still unable to see where the other side is coming from.
posted by OnceUponATime at 10:41 AM on March 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


That XKCD strip is supposed to be an illusion? I see exactly what's on the screen (blue and gold dress for each) so I'm just staring at it wondering what's the point...

If you cut the dress out of the background the colors for both are same but they look different because of the background they're set against. The colors they've chosen are supposed to be close to the colors as they are in the photo where the black is a little faded. Even those of us who see the dress as black/blue in the original photo see it as a faded black/blue.

What's interesting about the photo is that it's an example of the same optical illusion but it's an edge case so it only works on some people. XKCD has chosen background colors that make the illusion obvious for everyone but I bet that someone could take just the dress out of that comic and paste it over a background color somewhere between the two that they used such that some people would see the dress as a different color than someone else.

I imagine the same thing could be accomplished with the monitor tilt thing. Find the angle where it just barely flips to white/gold for you and someone else looking at the same image on the same monitor at the same angle might still see it as blue/black. Some people might see it as white/gold after tilting their monitor just a few degrees while others would need to tilt it a lot more.

Actually, it would probably be easier to test by adjusting the display's brightness.

And that, I think, is why this has really blown up. We understand that optical illusions exist and most people even think it's neat when their brain gets tricked. But those tricks work on everyone the same way. They're designed to be really obvious and work on everyone. We really rely on our eyesight to give us objective information about the world around us, we know that sometimes our brains lie to us about what we're seeing but we're okay with that as long everyone's brain is telling the same lies. This is a case where some people's brains are lying and other's are not so it MUST be YOUR brain that is telling the lies because if my brain were lying to me and not to you about the color of this dress I'd have no way of know what other lies it might be telling me that it's isn't telling you. Suddenly a whole bunch of people are experiencing a different reality than you are and the idea that information you think of as objective suddenly being proven to be not at all objective is kind of disconcerting, especially if you're in the white/gold camp now that you know your brain has been lying to you.
posted by VTX at 12:29 PM on March 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


No brains lied. All brains guessed. The actual colors in the picture are puke and periwinkle; the source and quality of the light are both ambiguous. Some of the brains guessed that the dress was lit by bright yellow light and therefore corrected puke and periwinkle to black and blue. Others guessed that the dress was lit by dim blue light and therefore corrected puke and periwinkle to gold and white. All this guessing has to be going on somewhere in the darkly inaccessible lizardbrain because if you're distracted when you look at the picture and not thinking, it can flip on you. It can and does flip on you even when you're not distracted. You can hold in your brain simultaneously the memory of seeing a black and blue dress and the actual real-time experience of looking right at a gold and white dress.

What is disturbing about this picture is not that your brain lies. The part of your brain that is running this freakshow doesn't have the capacity to lie. It doesn't have the sense god gave a crow. What's so upsetting about this is that it's proof that you're sharing your own skull with a lizard, and the lizard is in control.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:36 PM on March 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nope, your brain is lying to you.

As Golden Eternity points out up-thread, the wave length of the light is the objective property and when my SO and I looked at the same image, at the same time, on the same screen, from about the same angle the wavelengths of the light hitting the back of her eye were the same as the light that hit the back of mine. But we still saw two different colors. But the lizard make your brain take some shortcuts in interpreting colors (probably so he can spend more time smoking weed and playing that leaf-guitar). Your brain has access to the objective information (the wavelength of the light hitting the back of the eye) but it's deliberately ignoring that information and telling you something different.

We're both basically arguing the same point and I really like the lizard idea but I maintain that the issue isn't just that the lizard is in charge (optical illusions show us that) but that your lizard and my lizard work differently and we don't know all of the ways in which they work differently. So not only is there a possibility that other people are experiencing a different reality than me but I have no idea in which ways it's different.
posted by VTX at 2:12 PM on March 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


Your brain has access to the objective information (the wavelength of the light hitting the back of the eye) but it's deliberately ignoring that information and telling you something different.

It's a feature, not a bug. A picture of the "objective wavelengths" of each pixel in an image is barely useful. (Or barfly useful— thanks, autocorrect!) You want your brain to interpret a chaotic swath of colors as one object with its shadows.
posted by zompist at 2:53 PM on March 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


ob1quixote: “This LinkedIn post crossed my desk this morning, and went a long way towards explaining this entire affair to my satisfaction.”
Well now it appears that post may have been a marketing ploy.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:05 PM on March 2, 2015


No, you and your SO both saw puke and periwinkle pixels and interpreted them correctly and reasonably according to your separate conclusions about what color the light was and where it was coming from in the depicted scene. Assuming puke and periwinkle are not the colors of the dress it's perfectly reasonable to interpret them as black and blue or gold and white depending on the position and color of the light. When my brain told me I was looking at a white and gold dress, it said not "pay no attention to the actual pixelcolors, poor mortal, I will tell you a pretty story," but something like "Aright, what you got here's a dress that looks puke and periwinkle, but it's obviously in shadow, so that periwinkle is likely lighter--like white probably--and the puke is probably a lighter shade, too. Go with gold." Then it was all, "wait up, no, we have more information. That dress isn't in front of a window or hanging outside and that's not sunlight in the picture. Just a second, recalibrating..." and the dress turned blue right before my eyes. It was still puke and periwinkle, though. At no point was my brain confused about that and at no point did it lie. But it does keep recalibrating. No amount of telling it "problem solved, GDI! Blue and black, bitch!" will stop it. There's a lizard in your head, y'all.
posted by Don Pepino at 4:41 PM on March 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


As Golden Eternity points out up-thread, the wave length of the light is the objective property

Thinking about this more though, the physical property that color-experience is identifying is the reflective properties of a surface more than wavelength in general. The brain is ingeniously able to determine the spectral content of ambient light and correct the received spectrum accordingly so the same object looks similar regardless of the spectral content of the light shining on it and shadows, etc. It is in this process that the brain appears to be making a mistake. But I believe this mistake shows that the color we experience is essentially "created" by the brain somehow and is not itself a physical property. I wonder if it is even possible that had our brains evolved differently, red, green, and blue could have been used to identify entirely different physical surface properties -- using entirely different electromagnetic wavelengths or whatever. Martine Nida-Rumelin and other philosophers have written about the actual possibility based on some genetic theories of color vision that a small percentage of people have a genetic defect causing color inversion and actually see red objects as green and vice versa. I also wonder if it is possible that entirely new primary colors could potentially exist that would be as unimaginable to us, as the color red is to someone who is color blind.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:45 PM on March 2, 2015


Thinking about this more though, the physical property that color-experience is identifying is the reflective properties of a surface more than wavelength in general.

Technically it is the light absorption properties that determine a surface color.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:18 PM on March 2, 2015


Your brain has access to the objective information (the wavelength of the light hitting the back of the eye) but it's deliberately ignoring that information and telling you something different.

Well, "deliberately" is a stretch. Very little of your brain (which is to say, just your thalamus) has direct access to the original information coming in from the optic nerve; most of the brain gets its info from other parts of the brain, which get their info from other parts of the brain, etc...
posted by Jpfed at 8:18 PM on March 2, 2015




Just because I haven't seen this link posted yet: Mad Art Lab has some fun with photoshop, cutting the dress out away from the background, and pasting it (without changing the colors or brightness) into photos with different lighting contexts.

This (and the XKCD) seem like the exact opposite of the original photo, but... related, somehow? I dunno, I'm confused.

A better experiment might be showing three photos, two where an object is clearly washed out by front-facing flash (say, a red apple and a green plant). This sets up context before seeing the original dress photo after them.

Then show another three where two objects are clearly backlit and in shadows. Then the dress photo. If this has already been done, I'd like to see that.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:50 AM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or... I guess another experiment would be to take two identical objects with different colors, and putting them in opposite lighting to end up with them appearing the same.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 2:04 AM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


most of the brain gets its info from other parts of the brain, which get their info from other parts of the brain...

Which get's it's info from a turtle who get's info from another turtle and, well, I think we all know how it goes from here.
posted by VTX at 6:57 AM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


What worked for me was to make a pinhole with my thumb and forefinger and then look at a swatch of the dress, slowly backing up to see the full thing in its blue and black glory. That only lasts a couple eye blinks before it goes back to white and gold, though. A pinhole in a piece of paper also works.
posted by Skwirl at 1:10 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ack, a contestant on tonight's episode of American Idol is wearing the dress. It's made of some material that creeps steadily upwards, the poor gal has had to yank the hem back down a dozen times and counting.
posted by jamaro at 8:51 PM on March 5, 2015


I imagine most folks are way over this topic by now, but personally, I learned several new things from this wild but interesting speculation that the crux of the issue could be melanopsin differences in intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells--i.e. neither rods nor cones, but a third kind of cell linked to brightness discrimination, sleep onset, and seasonal affective disorder.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:17 PM on March 9, 2015


Alright, the global community of vision scientists has - at long last - largely concluded a 150-message, multi-thread discussion about the dress, including some rapidly collected data. One of the outcomes has been this extensive and well-sourced post which has the most likely answer placed in context of other possible answers. I feel that it is fair to the majority of the discussion. There's no sure answer, just yet -- we'd need more data for that!

I like the post because it discusses the ignored "third set" of colors: periwinkle blue and brown.

(The discussion went all over the place and as a result of this I have now read a paper about Bayesian priors in Bower bird perception, so.)
posted by nicodine at 12:55 PM on March 13, 2015 [20 favorites]


Thanks for posting that nicodine!!!!!
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:21 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks nicodine! Indeed, I am glad to see acknowledgement of my periwinkle people.
posted by tavella at 4:09 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow. Figure 7 in nicodine's link finally allowed me to see the white & gold.
posted by desjardins at 5:29 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I KNEW THERE WERE THREE
posted by unknowncommand at 7:28 PM on March 13, 2015


For all these reasons, observers will not consider their implicit assumptions about the illumination when being confronted to another observer who completely disagrees about the colour of the dress.

Since they do not interrogate these perceptual assumptions, they will be firmly convinced that their interpretation of the dress is the only possible, “correct” interpretation.

Only a few observers may change their interpretation of the image when they know about the two possible ways to interpret the illuminations.


I have to say I'm REALLY annoyed by how they use this language, "implicit assumptions," " know about the two possible ways to interpret," "interrogate these perceptual assumptions." It seems to me these words all have to do with the part of the brain that handles language and the meaning of words (symbols), whereas the part of the vision system that causes this bi-stable state is completely unconscious. It is like an inappropriate anthropomorphism of a part of the brain that is completely unconscious and machine-like, and I can't tell if people are doing this as a literary technique just to explain what is happening or if they actually think that the cognitive interpretation, interrogation, and knowing that we do linguistically is the somehow the same as how the vision system operates.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:23 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I have to say I'm REALLY annoyed by how they use this language, 'implicit assumptions,' 'know about the two possible ways to interpret,' 'interrogate these perceptual assumptions.' It seems to me these words all have to do with the part of the brain that handles language and the meaning of words (symbols), whereas the part of the vision system that causes this bi-stable state is completely unconscious."

Well, I strongly disagree with the qualitative distinction you're making. The stuff that you're categorizing as language is much more unconscious than you make it seem, and the visual perception stuff is not as exclusively unconscious as you make it seem.

Furthermore, the context of that passage is about the unquestioned (and "conscious") assumptions that people have that cause them to not even consider questioning their perception. That's part of the weirdness of the dress, because much more common are perceptual quirks such that the unconscious visual stuff you're referring to produces a result that is evidently false to our greater awareness -- so we "interrogate" the involuntary parts, and then re-evaluate. And, with regard to the previous paragraph, it does in fact happen that the visual perception stuff can be influenced by the deliberate and aware stuff.

All that said, I had the same basic reaction as you when I read this because I wouldn't have used the language that they used -- I wouldn't have used assumption because while that's not inaccurate, technically, it has a strong connotation of explicit reasoning in contrast to something that exists at a "lower level" of cognition. Put differently, I think that your objection is that their use of the word assumption implies something that is encultured, whereas you assert that this is a fact of, I don't know, genetics or early developmental biology. Just not really culture at all. And the thing is, I agree with you with regard to what's implicit in this about what's voluntary and what's very early in the neurology of the brain's visual processing; but I think you're mistaken about what seems to me to be an assumption of a big qualitative distinction between these. I think that culture and experience feed back into this pathway; they're part of what trains that portion of our brain's visual cognitive to these involuntary results.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:39 AM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


So this ad happened, and honestly i uh... feel kinda weird about it.

Is this the future of "hard hitting" advertising? Is everything becoming internet memes, until we reach some kind of singularity and everything tokyo drifts in to desu until it's all rekt?
posted by emptythought at 4:00 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have to say I'm REALLY annoyed by how they use this language, "implicit assumptions," " know about the two possible ways to interpret," "interrogate these perceptual assumptions." It seems to me these words all have to do with the part of the brain that handles language and the meaning of words (symbols), whereas the part of the vision system that causes this bi-stable state is completely unconscious.

Yeah, I agree that it's imperfect language. The word "assumption" makes it sound like a conscious process, whereas as you and Ivan Fyodorovich have mentioned, the intended meaning is that the construction of the scene is largely a function of processing that is not consciously guided. It's hard to find alternative words to express it though. I'm a fan of the alternative phrase "perceptual expectation," because my hunch is that the construction of the scene is due to some interactive process between the visual input and our long-term experience with different lighting conditions, but that phrase can also sound like it implies some degree of "conscious" reasoning (which is not to say that these observers and their visual processes are unconscious or sub-conscious, and who knows what processes are "sub"-conscious is.... see?! Language traps all around!).
posted by nicodine at 11:54 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's a disjunct between how cognitive psychologists and neurologists think memory, perception and thinking work and how we talk about those things in English and other languages. But if we talk about perception, we have do so in a language, and any language will have baked-in assumptions about how thinking, perception, feeling and memory work – assumptions that researchers in the field believe to be wrong – but which nevertheless correspond reasonably well to the way people experience thinking, remembering and perceiving. So people can people can use language to talk about what they see, experience, think and feel, and be understood by other speakers of the same language, because their conscious, subjective experiences are similar.

By definition, none of us are aware of pre-conscious perceptual processing, though researchers know this happens and have studied it a lot; we just see things. If we were aware of it, it wouldn't be pre-conscious. English and other languages don't have words for pre-conscious perceptual processes because we don't consciously experience them, so talking about them in ordinary language is confusing. This problem becomes particularly acute when cognitive psychologists try to talk to lay people and avoid technical language.
posted by nangar at 11:47 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Good lord. Either you look at the photo of the dress and see it as blue and black because you think it was photographed in a blaze of light or you look at the photo of the dress and see it as white and gold because you think it was photographed in shadow, and either perception is possible in the same person and in all people, just as everyone sees sometimes the two faces first and then the goblet and sometimes the goblet first and then the two faces.

It's been proven untrue in this very thread that "only a few observers may change their interpretation of the image when they know about the two possible ways to interpret the image." Any observer who can maintain interest in this long enough to keep looking will eventually see it both ways. The other stuff about how it's impossible for the lumpen without advanced degrees in color theology to grasp what's going on is also risible. Here's a small sample: "At the same time, laymen (in contrast to colour scientists) are not aware of the fact that the colours of an image depend fundamentally on their interpretation of the conditions of illumination. For most observers, the dress has a real colour (as it is the case for the real dress), and the illumination is a separate issue, not connected to the dress since they are different things." Aren't most observers aware on some level that they're not looking at a dress but at a photo of a dress? Aren't most observers who spend all day staring at photos on their phones pretty sophisticated looker-atters of photos? Aren't most people, actually, over the age of about 16 months, aware that illumination is a superimportant component of being able to look at things? I would posit that yes. All people with developed visual cortexes who are not profoundly brain damaged know that illumination is key. At night, all cats are gray. In shadow, white is going to look bluish. In bright light, dark colors appear lighter.

I don't like that salvation army ad because if it were lit so that the white were true white as it is in that photo, then the gold is the wrong color. And because why would someone who'd been beaten black and blue put on a lolcats costume and lie down in a photographer's studio? It is starting to look as if DFW has become a poltergeist and is all up in your Internet trying to end the world.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:49 AM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Aren't most observers aware on some level that they're not looking at a dress but at a photo of a dress? Aren't most observers who spend all day staring at photos on their phones pretty sophisticated looker-atters of photos?

Indeed, the visual system is quite sophisticated in both laymen and scientists. In my experience, it is generally true that people tend to think that objects have a fixed color ("my cat is orange"), whereas a vision scientist might (admittedly more complicatedly) state that "color" is totally constructed in the mind, based on a combination of perceived illumination of the scene, surface reflectance properties, and the wavelengths of photons that reach the eye. It's not meant to be a dig; it's just that a lot of folks don't have to think about strange scientific-philosophical questions like "what is color." It makes sense, too -- as kids we're taught to say "the ball is green" or whatever, so it's totally natural to not really question that.

That's part of why vision scientists have been really excited about the public interest in the dress. Sure, we like checkerboard illusions or necker cubes, but those are clearly illusions by design, meant to trick the visual system, so people expect some weirdness. The dress is a photo and therefore should seem to have a straightforward and single interpretation, but it doesn't, and I guess that intrigues people. We're just excited that non-scientists are nerding out about the same stuff we nerd out about.

There's still an interesting puzzle over how people's visual systems arrive at seeing the dress as illuminated by bright or dim light. The visual system figures out the illuminant all the time, with the goal of matching up specific retinal luminance values (low, medium, high luminance) to actual percepts of an object's brightness (black, gray, white). In lightness, this matching process is known as "anchoring," and we're still working to figure out some different anchoring rules (do we use the highest luminance, or the lowest?). It's totally possible something similar is going on to determine color from the retinal wavelength values. Prof Andy Leber made a nice youtube video about how this might work for the dress.

I'm glad people are still reading the comments way down here. :)
posted by nicodine at 9:57 AM on March 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Prof Andy Leber made a nice youtube video yt about how this might work for the dress.

That's a terrific little piece--thanks.
posted by yoink at 10:29 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I thought the other post was pretty great, I just couldn't go for some of the "colour scientists are chortling into their tweed jacket sleeves" phrasing. And I love the professor's video. You color eggheads are all right in my book!

I think the reason why white and gold trumped blue and black initially is that most people clicked a link to the photo on Buzzfeed and scrolled down to get it. When you start at the top and scroll down, you see the lightest-colored dresspixels first, and you see that bright white light over the dress's left shoulder. So you'll almost necessarily decide the light behind the dress is brighter than the light cast on the dress from the front. So you think it's a white dress in shadow. (Of course "decide" and "think" are both wrong.)
posted by Don Pepino at 2:22 PM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


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