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Blue and Black or White and Gold?


By Aanchal Mahajan


Most of you must be already familiar with this picture, but I am asking you again, “White and gold or blue and black?” The mystery that confounded almost each and every person on the net and provided the scientists with one of those inexplicable phenomenon certainly sparked up a debate with everyone convinced that they (read: their brains) were right. But why did the colours appear to be different to different people? Many have proposed the theory that the reason was because of the way our brains are wired. Yes, you got that right – we aren’t talking about logical or analytical skills or intelligence over here, it is the basic structure of the brain that we are talking about.

“Colour constancy” is a phenomenon of the brain tries to see the image in  way that the colours are uniform in any light, and as a result, the brain tries to ignore any coloured light that is falling on the picture. The people who saw the dress as blue and black saw those colours because their brains presumed that the dress was being viewed under ‘orange incandescent (artificial) light’, and so completely ignores the tones of orange that are present in the picture.

For the ones who saw the dress as white and gold, their brain presumed that the picture was clicked under a blue (natural – from the sky) light, and so it ignored the blue tones in the picture. Since, there is no sign of any light source in the picture, the brain freely assumes the source to be blue or orange depending on its wiring, and the end result is the different colours that the people “see”.

How do you perceive this dress’s colours?

Another interesting phenomenon was that non-office workers were more likely to see the dress as white and gold while office workers were more likely to see it as blue and black. Some have proposed the theory that since office workers are more exposed to artificial light, their brains were more likely to perceive the light source to be artificial, and thus, saw the dress to be blue and black, while those who didn’t work in offices were more likely to to be exposed to more natural light, and thus, their brains perceived the source to be blue/natural.

On a side note, the genes that create the sense of colour are different for everyone, and are present on the X chromosome. As a result, women are more likely to have varied colour chromosomes and thus, flip between colours.

And for the record, those who thought that the dress was white and gold, it is blue and black. But don’t feel too bad, there is nothing wrong with that, scientists are firmly of the opinion that the problem lies in the blue colour as our brains have always had some trouble with it.

Rohil Bahl