Recently, a Scottish musician and college student by the name of Caitlin McNeill posted a picture of a dress on her Tumblr that would spark a craze across the Internet. Time was a bit hasty in their response, stating that “the Internet officially broke ” as everyone from your mother to Taylor Swift to politicians began taking sides on the issue.
McNeill’s infamous post was captioned “guys please help me — is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the fuck out.”
Too bad that the poll of public opinion couldn’t help the girl out as the hashtag #TheDress began to pop up on social media, with both confused and vehement camps for “white and gold” or “blue and black” being established.
BuzzFeed grabbed onto the trend pretty quickly and broke the latest updates and arguments with the ferocity of breaking news updates a la Fox News. Their success in garnering viewership from this was so great that #TheDress was credited in site issues, as BuzzFeed’s own Tom Gara tweeted, “Great work everyone, we broke BuzzFeed.”
Now that the buzz has died down on this whole dress debacle and we’ve got proof that the dress is indeed black and blue, why were we seeing such different colors?
According to Duje Tadin, an associate professor for brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, it may be the variations in the number of photoreceptors in the retina of our eyes that perceive the color blue. Our eyes have about six million of these photoreceptors that are sensitive to green, red or blue and send signals to our brain that interprets them as the colors we perceive.
“It’s puzzling,” Tadin said in reference to the #TheDress. “When it comes to color, blue is always the weird one. We have the fewest number of blue cones.” He added, “If you don’t have very many blue cones, you may see it as white, or if you have plenty of blue cones, you may see more blue.”
Science Daily had their own way of interpreting the excitement, stating that “the wavelength composition of the light reflected from an object changes considerably in different conditions of illumination. Nevertheless, the color of the object remains the same.” Basically, since the offending photo was taken in lighting with a blue hue, it may have caused the blues in the dress to reflect a white color.
Makes you wonder: do you see the same colors as the next person? How much of what we see can we say for certain is the same as the next person’s perception of the same image?