Black and Blue or White and Gold?

The Science Behind this Dress

What colors do you see?

What colors do you see?

Emma Saltsman, Staff Writer

According to Adam Rogers of, not since Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern, has one blue dress become the center of so much controversy. Many people see the dresses actual colors, blue and black, and others see white and gold. Ninety-nine percent of the time we all see the same colors,  so why do people see such polar opposites?

Everyone sees the world differently, including wavelength colors. A blue wavelength might look purple to someone else. It all depends on how our brains interpret color. Add this factor to the fact that the image was taken with a phone camera, makes it more difficult to process the wavelength colors.

Human beings are evolved to see in daylight, but daylight changes color. That chromatic axis varies from a pinkish red in the morning into a blue-white in the afternoon, and then back down to reddish of the evening. When looking at the image of the dress, your brain is trying to determine which time of the day it is and figure out the chromatic axis of the image. Either people discount the blue side, which makes them see white and gold, or discount the gold side, which makes them see blue and black. In other words, our brains are confused at which color of the day to get rid of so we can see the actual color of the image. People who see black and blue are probably seeing the photo as overexposed and people who see the dress as white and gold are probably seeing the photo as underexposed.

The dress is actually blue and black, but the way the photo was taken makes everyone see the picture differently. Before you start arguing with your friend on the color of this dress, keep in mind that everyone sees the world differently and everyone interprets colors differently. It’s out of their control on how they see the image.