The Dress: #WhiteAndGold or #BlackAndBlue?


Maybe I’m the last one in America still asking, but I just can’t get over it: If the dress is really black and blue, why does it look white and gold?


Neuro-ophthalmologist Lisa Lystad, MD, told the Cleveland Clinic Health Hub in an article that this Internet-breaking garment is the best optical illusion she has seen in a long time.


Dr. Lystad says there is no absolute answer about the color of the dress because it’s all based on color perception, which doctors and scientists are still grasping to understand. Three factors come in to play when it comes to our perception of color, according to Dr. Lystad:

1.       Cones perceive color.

2.       Context of color.

3.       Your brain’s perception of color.

Similar to the way a camera works, light comes in through the cornea in the front of the eye, goes through the lens and then hits the retina. Rods and cones in the retina turn light waves into neurochemical energy, which is then sent to the brain.


Still following? Good. There’s 6 to 7 million cones in the retina that tell the brain what color they’re seeing, while rods in the eyes help us to see in the dark. But cones in the eyes are distributed differently, which can partially account to what colors a person sees.


Also affecting how people perceive the dress is what background people are viewing the color against and how bright the background is. While the background on the right side of the photo of the dress is overexposed, the background on the left side of the picture appears to be very dark. Dr. Lystad says the side you use as a visual reference can influence how the dresses color is perceived by individuals.


“Color is relative to what’s next to it,” Dr. Lystad said. “You can take a little square of gray and put it on different color backgrounds, and it will look like a change of color. It depends on what color the square is sitting next to.”


Last, after the eye sends the information to your brain (what color the eyes see), the brain processes the area of color and associates the color a name, which associates it with a memory of the color.


Well. I’m glad to have that all sorted out.

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