Here’s why no one can agree on the colour of the dress

WATCH ABOVE: How one black and blue (or is it white and gold) dress ignited the social media universe. Nicole Bogart reports.

TORONTO – It may very well be one of the most heated debates to hit the Internet in years. Is the dress blue and black, or is it white and gold?

It all started Thursday evening, after an image was uploaded to Tumblr with the caption “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 f*** out.”

It all went downhill from there.

WATCH: The design director of Roman Originals, the company that makes the dress confirmed the true hue of the frock – royal blue and black.

By now you have likely seen the dress and formed a very strong opinion on the matter. Those who see the dress in white and gold swear up and down those are the true colours of the dress – the blue and black believers think they are insane.

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But, regardless of what side you are on there are explanations as to why you are seeing what you think you are seeing.

The only problem is there are many theories.

It could be linked to the screen you are looking at

Ralph Chou, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Journal of Optometry, suggested that people’s perception of the photo could have a lot to do with the type of screen they are looking at.

“One of the problems you have with computers is that you can have a monitor set to factory defaults, or it can be alerted to fit what you find comfortable,” Chou told Global News.

“When you look at an image like this, if you have adjusted the settings on the monitor, or you are in a room that has certain types of lighting, you can have alterations to that image.”

Smartphone screens may also alter your perception of the image because the smaller screens are known to be a bit brighter and have a “blue bias,” as Chou explained it.

However, some people have denied this theory all together, claiming they still saw different colours when looking at the same monitor with a friend.

The photo itself is misleading

The original photo uploaded to Tumblr isn’t the best quality. It’s overexposed – meaning the lens let in too much light, making the photo too bright. Because of this, everything looks a little washed out, making it hard to determine the true colour in the first place.

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The original photo from Tumblr. Tumblr

For example, Deadspin used Photoshop to determine what the colour of the dress was based on the original photo.

According to their experiment, Photoshop said the dress was blue and brown.

Others played with the exposure and saturation levels of the photo to try to come up with a better explanation. Many of those people joined team #TheDressIsBlueAndBlack.

It’s likely just the way your brain is processing the image

“It is somewhat complicated because it has to do with the way our brains process visual information – that is driven by experience, cultural influence and other biases,” said Chou.

“When people look at it with a one-off glance, the way they interpret the background images and how their brain looks at the dress itself […] can swing them either way.”
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But Chou said some may be able to manipulate the way they see the image by viewing it in rooms with different lighting and changing what part of the image their eyes focus on.

Personally, I originally saw the dress as white and gold, but – after thinking I had been tricked by some sort of viral optical illusion prank – saw blue after scrolling past the image again on Tumblr.

But the circumstances of how I looked at the image may have played into that.

  1. I had just woken up (keep in mind my alarm goes off at 4:15 a.m. ET)
  2. I was laying in the dark, with my iPhone screen on a low brightness setting
  3. I had no idea what the great dress debate was all about yet – so I was seeing the image not knowing what colours I was supposed to be looking for.

After speaking with Chou, I revisited the image on both my computer monitor (which is set to default settings) and my iPhone (with the brightness at full). For the record, I still see gold.

So, do some people just see colours differently?

“That’s a very good question to which there is no good answer,” Chou said.

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“Colour is entirely something that results from what is going on between your ears. Each person is going to have a very different experience of looking at that ambiguous image.”

Of course, the retailer that sells the dress, Roman Originals, has already proven the white and gold team wrong. The dress is indeed blue and black.

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