The Science Behind Why People See 'The Dress' In Different Colors

If you haven't already heard, the Internet recently became engulfed in a heated debated over the color of a poorly photographed $77 dress. Is it black and blue or gold and white?! It's a question for the ages.

some people see black and blue, I see white and gold lol #THEDRESS pic.twitter.com/agvUEEvAFy — leslie (@Leslie_y0) February 27, 2015
How could you possibly think it's white and gold HOW. It's black and blue people black and blue #thedress pic.twitter.com/fBDcuP5kfM — Laura Mattson (@lnmattson) February 27, 2015
Team white and gold ?? pic.twitter.com/DQPiBEOSnT — kslife (@kevin_seraphin) February 27, 2015

Indeed, the biggest two trends on the Internet in the past 24 hours have been #llamas and #TheDress. We really are simple creatures.

The color of #TheDress varies with each #llama pic.twitter.com/ydQprGOvRX — Sam Kalidi (@samkalidi) February 27, 2015
#TheDress got the entire world like pic.twitter.com/sSV10vQYtu — THANK YOU LIAM ilysm (@NarryMcCuddly) February 27, 2015

And for the record, the dress is black and blue.

With that said, the science behind why we see the dress in different colors is decidedly more complicated, and also very interesting.

As Wired explains it, this all has to do with evolution and the way in which human eyes and brains see and analyze color in daylight.

Our eyes are connected to our brains via the optic nerve (see the diagram below), which functions much like a messaging service, transmitting information about what we're seeing to our brains.

The eye has a complex anatomy, with each part playing specific functions.

Traveling through the lens, different wavelengths of light correlate with different colors. In other words, one might say color is simply reflected light.

Our brains work in such a way that we naturally detect what color we are seeing. So, even in a situation where there are multiple colors in the background, our brains are pretty good at eliminating these to determine the actual color of the focal object.

The now-infamous dress photo, however, reveals daylight can sometimes play tricks on our brains. This makes a lot of sense as most people can probably attest to seeing a gradual change in the color of objects depending on the time of day and how light it is.

Simply put, the way we perceive colors all comes down to context.

Due to the fact the photo was taken under bright light, some people's brains get confused and they see the dress as white and gold. If you darken the photo, however, it becomes more apparent the dress is, in fact, black and blue.

The anatomy of the eye and its relationship with the brain is obviously complicated, and this is a very watered-down interpretation of the science behind #TheDress controversy.

Yet, hopefully it will help us move on from this issue as we need to stay vigilant in case there's another thrilling llama chase in the near future.

Citations: The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress (Wired), Why Your Brain Thinks That Blue Dress Looks White (Forbes), Light Absorption Reflection And Transmission (The Physics Classroom)