The Science Behind the Legendary Dress

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Photo Courtesy of wired.com

Melody Ra, Editor In Chief

As the renown philosopher Plato once stated, “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” Yet, on February 26, a special cocktail dress was uploaded onto Tumblr– and it sparked a large debate among people. Why? Well, some claimed that the dress’ stripes was blue and black, while others could see nothing but white and gold. So, what is its true color? In reality, the dress is indeed blue and black. However, the reason why many people can only see white and gold can only be explained with science.

The entire problem is surrounded by the issue regarding light. Let us create a hypothetical situation to illuminate the problem. A man takes two photos of a green plant: one is taken in blue light, while the other is taken in red light. When another man looks at the photos, would he assume that the plant is a different color because of the different-colored lighting? No! The human eye is automatically registered to assume that the different lightings have different effects on the plant. So, regardless of the different lighting, the plant is still green.

The real issue is not the coloration of the dress, but the issue regards what color one’ mind views it as. This concept is known as color constancy. Color constancy is how the human brain views its surroundings relative to its setting. In other words, one’s brain would alter an object’s color, depending on the environment it is in, whether be a darkly-lit or a lightly- lit room.

Now, the blue and black dress’ setting cannot be seen in the photo, so naturally, our brains assume what type of setting it is in, and they compensate for that setting, by viewing the dress as a white and gold or a blue and black dress.

People who see white and gold stripes on the dress are assuming that the dress is lit with “natural light,” such as sunlight shining into the room. People who see the blue and black stripes on the dress are assuming that the dress is lit by an artificial light, such as a light bulb.

Although scientists understand the debated coloration of the dress, they still are not adamant in the significant differences between people who see blue and black, and people who see white and gold.

So, white and gold, or blue and black, the dress may be whatever you perceive it to be! (But, it is blue and black)