The mystery is solved! The dress is definitely blue and black and some say pretty ugly. The real question is, how can such a simple photo create such polarising views? (It’s super blue and super black to me and Taylor Swift! But PM Lee and Chemistry Tutor Mr. Joel thinks it’s white and gold?). We answer this mystery with science as simply as we can!

Is it my eyes? My brain? The photo itself?

The answer lies in how our eyes and brain are wired to adjust for lighting and interpret colours in different ways. This video does a great job of explaining colour constancy and perception, which causes our brain to interpret exactly similar colours in vastly different ways.

The colour blind test is a great example of how colour constancy and perception is used by us humans.

From a Business Insider article:

“People who see white and gold may be looking at the dress in a blue-lit room or near a window with a blue sky. It also depends on our own individual sensitivity to the bluish tinting in the photo. The brains of people who see white and gold are interpreting the photo as more shadowy. The brain compensates for the darker blue tinting and interprets the blue part as white and the black part as gold.

People who see the correct black and blue might be looking at the dress somewhere with artificial, yellow-lit lights. Or their brain is interpreting the photo as more illuminated and therefore it doesn’t need to compensate for the shadows.”

How can different people see the same dress so differently!

Since it is our brains that adjusts and decides on the colour, this photo falls right smack between our perceptual boundary. Which explains why some people see it as blue and black, while others see it as white and gold. When the context (the lighting) changes, our visual perception changes as our brain starts adjusting for it.

So to conclude, our brain does a wonderful job of taking shortcuts and making us see the same colours most of the time. However, in this case, this photo lies right between our perceptual boundaries which cause us to see it differently!

While this isn’t something that is usually covered in our Chemistry Tuition‘ classes, this is a classic example of how science can be extremely fascinating and relevant in our everyday lives!

If you’re interested in how to get your child interested in Chemistry, check out our article on regaining your child’s interest in Chemistry!

Here’s a photo that proves it’s really blue and black!

Wait a minute…


We confirm that the dress is blue and black! Wait a minute…

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