February 27, 2015, by Debs Storey

THAT dress!

White and gold, blue and black? Who is seeing the actual colours of that dress?

It’s been a huge talking point on social media since its release and now we’re taking up the colour conundrums in person.

“It’s blue, how can you think it’s white?” a colleague asked whilst holding up various coloured items to the screen.

We find ourselves enlisting the help of other eyes in the office and realise there is a definite divide.

'That' dress

(Photo courtesy of swiked via Tumblr)


So what do you see and why are you seeing it that way?

Dr Anne Green from the School of Physics and Astronomy has already used the example of the dress in one of her lectures earlier today. Here is what she told us about the science behind the dress.

‘Basically it’s an optical illusion. The colour of an object is determined by the light it reflects. In particular how much of each wavelength/colour it contains. This partly depends on the colour of the light in the first place. For instance if you had a red light-bulb then everything in the room would appear varying shades of red. The brain is very clever and tries to take this into account and work out what colour the object actually is (i.e. what colour it would be if the light hitting it was white). In this case the general colour of the image fools some people’s brains into thinking the room is lit with blue light. The brain then (falsely) takes this into account and thinks the dress is white & gold rather than blue & black.’

Now at least we can rest well tonight knowing that once again science has solved another of life’s mysteries.


Posted in Social Sciences