Is it blue? Is it black? Or are we all just going slowly mad?
The Internet went crazy Thursday night with the instigation of what some are calling “Dressgate.” From inconspicuous beginnings, the drama surrounding a rather plain cocktail dress blew up into a world-wide debate about color and sanity.
The drama began when 21-year old Caitlin McNeill of Scotland posted a photo of a dress to her Tumblr account, asking the simple question, “Guys please help me–is this dress white and gold, or blue and black?” A seemingly simple question, as millions of Internet users across the world were soon to find out. It turns out that the photo of the dress creates an optical illusion, causing some viewers to see a white dress with gold lace, and others to see a navy dress with black lace. I personally had a moment of intense mental anguish when I viewed the photo at the top of an article and viewed navy and black, only to return to the photo a minute later and see white and gold.
So what’s going on? Have we all lost our minds? Is a good portion of the world’s population color blind? Thankfully, several neuroscientists have stepped forward to put the world’s collective color-coding minds at ease.
In an article posted on Buzzfeed, Professor Cedar Reiner, an associate professor of psychology at Randolph-Macon College, said that the issue was entirely to do with how the brain interprets light coming into the eyes. In other words? It’s one big optical illusion.
“In the case of the dress, some people are deciding that there is a fair amount of illumination on a blue and black (or less reflective) dress,” Reiner said in the article. “Other people are deciding that it is less illumination on a white/gold dress (it is in shadow, but more reflective).”
Everyone interprets the light coming into their eyes based on individual experience. This means that the color you view the dress as may be affected by what you were looking at the moment before you viewed the picture, or the lighting of the environment you’re viewing it in. I was thankful for this added insight, as it explained why the dress changed colors almost before my very eyes.
This scientific explanation, while reassuring, did nothing to stop the total warfare going on on social media feeds around the world. Celebrities came out with their own perceptions of the dress. Taylor Swift panicked on Twitter, opining, “I don’t understand this odd dress debate and I feel like it’s a trick somehow. I’m confused and scared. Ps it’s OBVIOUSLY BLUE AND BLACK.”
Kim Kardashian reported dissension in the ranks: “What color is that dress? I see white and gold. Kanye sees black and blue, who is color blind?”
Anna Kendrick gave in to existential turmoil, tweeting, “If that’s not White and Gold the universe is falling apart. Seriously what is happening??”
(Note: you can see more hilarious celebrity reactions, including those unfit to print, online here.)
Interestingly, the original photographer, Caitlin McNeill, has guaranteed that the dress is in fact blue and black in person. It’s only the photo that sparks debate about the color. The mind is a tricky thing, as people across the world are finding out.
As Friday dawns and Dressgate continues, I find myself pondering a new question: when will this debate end? Hopefully soon. If not, I fear I might be going on a Twitter and Facebook hiatus until the madness dies down. A dress has officially blown up the Internet. We are now living in a post-Dressgate world.