#theDress – blue and black or white and gold? Sussex Director of the Centre for Cognitive Science explains…

#theDress. The photo that has caused controversy, confusion and even fear across the globe over the past week, sparking heated debate across social media. So – do you see a white and gold dress or a black and blue dress? Fortunately, there are no dark arts to blame and Dr Ron Chrisley, director of the Centre for Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex explained all in a recent commentary for the Guardian – noting that actually it is down to a simple illusion, based on the context of what the image is surrounded by at the point of us viewing the dress.

The dress

Black and blue or white and gold? Blogger Caitlin asked the question on Tumblr and started the debate…

Chrisley said: “Which colour we see isn’t just a matter of the light coming into eyes, it’s also a matter of the inferences we make about what caused that input. We use the context to inform our colour experiences..

“Some suffer from the illusion more than others due to variations in how people factor in context in order to construct a colour experience. Some people see just what’s in front of them and some people are affected much more by the context.

“This has yet to be proven, but given what we know of the brain, it’s possible that someone who is used to manipulating images and white balance might be able to perceive the true dress colour in a wider range of contexts and ignore context, whereas others can be easily manipulated. People who have changed luminance in Photoshop may not be fooled by it.”

Also, we are all different, which explains why some people’s  brains will discount the gold shade so we see the blue, and others discounting the blue so you see the dress as gold and black. It depends on a multitude of influences.

What is also interesting, is that as I have written this article, and the light from the rooflight above my monitor has changed and fluctuated with the clouds / sun, the dress has changed colour – right before my eyes as the surrounding context has also changed.

So. #theDress, (which is actually blue and black) is a good reminder of how things are not always what they seem…

Want to know more? Check out Dr Chrisley’s Lab blog here.

(photo via Caitlin Tumblr account)

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