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article imageBlue and black? Or white and gold? Net debates color of a dress

By JohnThomas Didymus     Feb 27, 2015 in Internet
On Thursday, the Internet became engrossed in a heated debate over the colors of a dress. Some said that the colors were blue and black, while others were equally convinced that the colors were white and gold.
Both camps engaged in a debate that became so heated that people in opposing camps began lobbing insults at each other from entrenched color positions.
According to the Daily Mail, the picture of the dress was originally posted to Tumblr by Caitlin McNeill, a 21-year-old from Scotland. McNeill explained that the mother of her friend who was getting married sent a photo of the dress to her daughter, presumably for the marriage. But when the daughter showed the photo to her fiancé, the two disagreed on the colors of the dress. One person thought the colors were blue and black, while the other insisted they were white and gold.
The bride showed the photo to her friends, including McNeill, hoping they would help to resolve the dispute with her fiance. But instead, the question of the true colors of the dress became even more muddled when everyone disagreed and bickering erupted over the matter.
McNeill then shared the photo on Tumblr. From there the debate exploded into an online viral that engaged the Internet for an entire day to the detriment of other potential viral stories.
Soon, even celebrities joined in the debate that raged all day on social media.
The actress and comedian Mindy Kaling, was so sure of the accuracy of her color vision that she confidently denounced heretics who saw white and gold on Twitter: "It's a blue and black dress! Are you f***k**ing kidding me?"
Actor and stand-up comedian BJ Novak, responded defiantly, "White and gold."
British-American actress and author Julianne Moore, joined the debate, reprimanding those who saw blue-and-black, "What's the matter with you guy, it's white and gold."
Pleased that Moore sided with him, Novak responded, "Thank you! And congratulations on your Oscar which Mindy thinks is purple and green."
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Twitter
Twitter
Taylor Swift appeared spooked by the dress whose colors the entire Internet was going gaga over. She tweeted cautiously, "I don't understand this odd dress debate and I feel like it’s a trick somehow. I'm confused and scared. PS it’s obviously blue and black."
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Twitter
Twitter
Justin Bieber also joined the debate in favor of the blue-and-black party.
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Twitter
Twitter
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West disagreed.
Kardasahian tweeted, "What color is this dress? I see white and gold. Kanye sees black and blue, who is color blind?"
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Twitter
Twitter
Shocked at how her friend's mysterious dress exploded into a viral phenomenon on social media, McNeill commented, "I thought my followers on Tumblr would maybe have a good reaction, but I never would have considered that Taylor Swift and Mindy Kaling would be tweeting about it."
As the online debate festered, Wired.com called color perception experts to adjudicate. According to Wired.com, the final judgment by experts was that the true colors were blue and black.
But why did some see white and gold?
According to neuroscientists who spoke with Wired.com, the disparity between individuals provides an exceptional illustration of the mechanisms of human color perception. The explanation boils down to a shocking truth about color perception most of us never guessed: The brain did not evolve to see the "true colors" of objects. Instead, it engages in rule-of-thumb contest-specific guessing about the color of objects. The process works in such a way that most of the time everyone can agree on the color of an object. But occasionally, confusion sets in when the rule-of-thumb process yields different results for different individuals.
We see objects in our world when light from the sun consisting of several wavelengths of visible light reflects from the surface of objects and impinges on the retina, firing off signals to the brain. Because so many wavelengths of light are involved, the information the brain receives is mixed. So the brain must somehow do some smart guesswork to process the muddled information.
This first task for the brain is to determine the dominant wavelengths of light illuminating the object. It then subtracts these from the mix of color wavelengths to determine the true color of the object being perceived.
According to University of Washington neuroscientist Jay Neitz, "Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance. But I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen."
Because humans evolved to see in daylight where the dominant wavelengths of solar illumination are blue and white, most people are able to agree about the color of objects in their world. But under novel conditions of illumination, individual brains struggling to make sense of mixed data come up with different answers. Thus, under reddish twilight conditions, for instance, the brain, struggling to determine the "chromatic bias" of the illumination may simply choose to discount blue light as a matter of habit acquired under daylight conditions. While other individual brains would attempt to adapt to the new conditions by selecting red as the domination illumination and thus discount red.
Obviously, the two sets of people will have different opinions about the color of the same object.
In the case of the mysterious dress, it appears that the photographer gave the photo excessive exposure, creating a bright background. Thus individual brains attempted to solve the problem of the true color of the dress through a context-specific analysis that referenced the dominant illumination of the background.
The same dress seen under different conditions of background illumination
The same dress seen under different conditions of background illumination
Wired.com
Thus, those who noticed the bright background illumination automatically discounted bright colors of the wavelength spectrum and saw blue while those who ignored the fact of the bright background and thus assumed an illumination tending to blue (dark colors) automatically subtracted blue and saw white and gold.
Thus the color you see depends on your assumptions about the quality of the background illumination.
Uncertainty about the nature of the background illumination created the situation in which people looked at the dress with different assumptions of the dominant color of the illumination and came to different conclusions about the color of the dress.
Those who assumed a blue (dark spectrum) illumination discounted the color blue and thus saw white and gold, while those who assumed a bright or white illumination saw blue and black.
More about Color, Dress, what colors are the dress, blue and black, white and gold
 
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