You have GOT to be KIDDING ME!
Yes, “The Dress” has made the news again, but now it’s taken a scientific turn.
Three papers on the is-it-gold-and-white-or-is-it-blue-and-black debate have been published in the recent issue of the journal, Current Biology.
“When The Dress first came out and was shown to the world, I thought it was social media fluff,” Bevel Conway, a professor of neuroscience at Wellesley College and an author to one of the studies, tells Yahoo Health. “But actually, it has taken the scientific community by a far greater, if so, burning storm than it did for the popular media.”
Conway’s experiment consisted of 1,400 adults, where over 300 of the participants had never looked at The Dress prior to the study. He and his team discovered that people fell into three different groups — the white/gold camp, the blue/black camp and a smaller blue/brown camp. And they could also be divided by age and sex: they found that older people and women were more likely to see The Dress as white and gold, while the younger volunteers were more likely to see the garment as being black and blue. “The blue/brown group was not as common as everybody else, but they’re a significant group and I have to stick up for them because I’m one of them!” he adds.
“The leading hypothesis is one that I put out there when The Dress first came on the scene, which is that people have different internal models, and that the color correction algorithm that we have in our brains works differently in different people,” Conway continues. “And that comes about because of the exposure that people have to different lighting situations.”
He then explains how challenging it is for a camera to capture the true color of an image. “Every single photograph that is taken requires some color correction because the connection between wave length stimulus and color is not a reflex — it’s not like that wave length equals that color. This is the main reason why photography was so hard to develop — because the investors had to figure out how to get the film to reproduce closely enough what you had experienced.”
And there are tiny computers inside our cameras, which are trying to interpret the correct colors and lighting conditions. “So in this particular case, the illumination conditions were basically confused to the color correction algorithm in the camera,” continues Conway. “So you end up with this very peculiar photograph where the only components in it, the objective pixel colors, are blues and browns. And those two colors just happen to be the colors we associate with natural illuminance.”
Which leads us into the second study, conducted in Germany. The researchers conclude that all of the colors observed by their 15 participants are similar to the colors found in daylight, which supports previous works on how the eye perceives natural sunlight.
The third experiment was comprised of 87 college-aged students from the University of Nevada, Reno. Researchers asked them what color they saw when looking at the light-blue stripes — half reported blue while half reported white. Then the investigators manipulated the image so that the black stripes appeared blue and the blue stripes appeared gold. And 95 percent of the students reported seeing yellow or gold.
The study author, a cognitive scientist named Michael Webster, concluded that our eyes are likely to confuse blue objects with blue lighting and — similar to the German research — has to do with how our eyes translates in the presence of natural light from the sun and the sky.
Conway, of Wellesley, points out that his paper is “entirely co-relational and circumstantial, so we need to do a lot more experiments to prove this idea. But The Dress is possibly one of the most effective tools we now have for studying that internal color correction mechanism that we have in our head.”
And so the phenomenon continues.