Visual Perception: Scientific Lessons Learned From “The Dress” Phenomenon

Jaikishan Jayakumar*

Visual Perception: Scientific Lessons Learned From “The Dress” Phenomenon

Our perception of colour is not a property of the visualised object, rather the consequence of
the distribution of reflected light that the visual system interprets and assigns as a colour of the object.

However, our percept of colour is remarkably stable, given the wide variation in luminance conditions.

This phenomenon is called colour constancy and is attributed to adaptation
mechanisms within the visual system.

This phenomenon is also the reason why the interpretation
of the dress as interpreted through social media during a Scottish party became somewhat
of a surprise when people started reporting the dress as being of two separate colours
blueblack or white and gold.

So how can the perception of a relatively simple coloured object be so
different among members of the human population or in other words how the brain can get it so
wrong? This mini review aims to review and explain this phenomenon

How different is the perception of the dress amongst the general population.

In an online experiment by Lafer-Sousa et al2 conducted in 1401 subjects.

The authors reported that 57% perceived the dress as blue-black,
30% saw white-gold, 10% brown-gold and the rest could switch between any combinations.

However, when the same experiment was conducted
in laboratory condition on calibrated monitor and the subjects were asked to match the colours
of the dress to calibrated Maunsell chips, it was found that the percept is actually a continuum
rather than just blue-black or yellow gold.

These differences are unlikely to provide an explanation for
the dress phenomenon as there are rarely any differences in our perception of
naturally coloured objects even though there are small variations
in colour naming5 amongst human population.

Ophthalmol Open J. 2016; 1(1): 15-16. doi: 10.17140/OOJ-1-104