The Story Behind the Viral Tumblr Dress and Why You See a Different Colour Than Your Friends

by February 26, 2015
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Today a Tumblr user posted a photo of a dress, and the internet exploded with confusion. The user was 21-year-old Scottish musician Caitlin McNeill, who plays guitar and sings in a band named Canach. She told Business Insider, “what happened was two of my close friends were actually getting married and the mother of the bride took a photo of the dress to send to her daughter,” McNeill said. “When my friend showed the dress to her fiancee, they disagreed on the color.”

That’s when Caitlin posted on Tumblr: “Guys please help me—is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the fuck out.”

Tensions ran high online as the biggest question of the day posed, “what colour is that dress?” From a Buzzfeed poll, seemingly the majority of people see it as white and gold, while the rest see it as blue and black. Personally, I’m in the latter, and had a heated debate with a friend earlier while looking at the same photo in the same lighting. My partner saw it as white and gold as well, and it was a true test of our relationship.

Luckily, VICE came to the rescue and asked a colour vision expert about why some of us see one colour and some of us see another. In short, the expert, Dr. Neitz, explained that the reason for the confusion has to do with lighting — not the lighting around you, but rather the lighting of the photo and the way your brain perceives it.

“If I go into a room and I turn on a light that’s completely red, the white things will reflect all that red light,” Dr. Neitz said. “But if I also have a red thing, then that will reflecting the red light, too.”

The colour vision expert continues: “I used to own a red Volkswagon,” Dr. Neitz said. “I was out and it was dark and I was getting into my car. Someone next to me had just gotten into their car and put on their brake lights. When they did that, my car was illuminated just with the brake lights—and my car looked white!”

For those wondering what colour Caitlin sees the dress as, she clears the air by telling Business Insider she attended the wedding with her band. “I got to the wedding and the mother was wearing the dress,” McNeill said. “Obviously it was blue and black.”

What colour do you see the dress as? Let us know in the comments below!

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