Science explains the colour of 'the dress'

Are you still baffled by the colour of the striped dress that had the world of social media agog a few months ago? Colour scientists have now weighed into the debate and think they’ve figured out why ‘the dress’ appeared to be a different colour to different people.

You might recall some of us perceived ‘the dress’ with the horizontal stripes to be blue with black lace while others got the very district impression it was white with gold lace. Amid the social media frenzy, the designer of the dress eventually stepped forward to confirm the controversial garment was actually made of blue and black fabric. At the time there were plenty of educated opinions and lighting on the original photograph was generally blamed for the varying colour perceptions.

Now the scientists have stepped in to solve the mystery – turns out the colours we saw in the dress had more to do with the colours red and green.

Perceptual psychologists from the Universities of Giessen and Bradford conducted an experiment of two groups of people who were divided on the colour of ‘the dress’, attempting to work out how they perceived colour in general. Their research results are published in the journal Current Biology.

Professor Karl Gegenfurtner from Giessen University said the reason behind the confusion about the colours of the dress is the photograph’s overall blue and yellow colouring.

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Usually, people are able to unconsciously filter the effect of blue or yellow light and the result is that everyone perceives the same colours. To do that, we need reference points – colours which are located outside the so-called daylight locus. But in the case of ‘the dress’, red and green features are completely missing, so the photo does not provide relevant information on luminance levels.

“This would not have happened with a red dress,” he said.

So, there you have it. That’s why ‘the dress’ caused so much confusion. Which colours did you see?