The Debated Dress Is History, but Its Lesson Lives On

debated dressThat blue and black and white and gold dress is fading from memory, but before it turns into a colorless and forgotten image, let’s take a look at the process of seeing. What did you see? What did your friends see?

Did you argue about it?

When I first saw the dress, it was clearly white and gold—I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about—but as I looked more closely it passed through a range of shades and then morphed into black and blue, where it stayed. Spooky. I was registering the process of sight: how the information from my eyes is received and understood by my brain. The color receptors in my eyes didn’t change in the minutes that I witnessed the colors in the dress change. The way my brain processed what the color receptors received is what changed, causing me to see different colors at different times. The debate regarding the actual colors of the dress became a social media sensation because people mostly think that seeing is believing—but here was the perfect example that it may not be, and we just don’t like that. After all, if you can’t trust what you see, what can you trust? Also, who?

Which is exactly the point: the brain is not a tape recorder; it is an interpreter. That’s important to remember—what you think is true may not be. You may see the dress in a rainbow of different shades and colors. Don’t get hooked on one view. We have trouble taking in and understanding accurately what is out there, in the world, as well as what is within, inside ourselves. And the outside stuff and the inside stuff are densely interrelated, affecting our perceptions and what we think is “right.”

That can cause a lot of arguments. In the case of the now-famous (infamous?) dress, everybody was right and nobody was wrong, even if people changed their minds about what they saw, like me. We are all better off (and closer to reality) when we can hold onto the thought that often there is much more than one true thing, but people don’t like uncertainty. We want to know things absolutely. So let us all agree that in reality (?) the dress is black and blue and it’s absolutely not worth fighting about it.

The debate regarding the actual colors of the dress became a social media sensation because people mostly think that seeing is believing—but here was the perfect example that it may not be, and we just don’t like that.

It’s just not worth fighting. Wouldn’t it be good to remember that when you’re engaged in a “he said, she said,” for example, or a flat-out “that’s not what happened”? Many things likely happened, and many different interpretations and perceptions may be equally right, or just as wrong, as any other. So rather than holding tight to the notion that you are in possession of absolute truth in the first degree, it might help to concede that you might not be. We can’t always be 100% sure. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but reality? Not so much.

Can you believe what you see? Check out these optical tests. Try them all, if you like, but be sure to check out the Stroop Effect. In this brain teaser, the names of colors are different than the color named. For example, “RED” is written in blue. What you read is different than what you see, and your brain has to override the word and say the name of the color. The Stroop Effect has a variation that is used by military intelligence to detect spies. Like all subjects, a spy’s reaction times will differ when the color and the word are in conflict. If the word is in written in a language the spy pretends to not know, it will take longer to react because the spy has to override the brain’s response to language as well as color.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT, therapist in New York City, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • audra

    audra

    March 11th, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    My daughter and I argued for a little while over the color
    ( she saw blue and black) but after a while and after seeing the real dress, then there was no more arguing. She won ;)

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    March 11th, 2015 at 9:15 AM

    Hi Audra-
    I’m glad you made up!;>)
    Take care,
    Lynn

  • vernon

    vernon

    March 11th, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    The brain does at times work in mysterious ways, eh?

  • paige

    paige

    March 11th, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    I see white and gold people say that its black and blue it is but I see white and gold
    😞 what color do u see

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    March 11th, 2015 at 12:28 PM

    Hi Paige, as Vernon says, “the brain does at times work in mysterious ways. . .” I saw white and gold at first, then black and blue, and what do you think, does it matter?

  • sam

    sam

    March 11th, 2015 at 2:56 PM

    i saw gold and white but the dress looks different in sunlight.

  • lazariya

    lazariya

    March 11th, 2015 at 3:35 PM

    It is black and blue

  • The dress is black and blue

    The dress is black and blue

    March 11th, 2015 at 4:11 PM

    The dress is black and blue

  • Sidysue

    Sidysue

    March 11th, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    I see blue and gold 😳😳

  • Claudia

    Claudia

    March 12th, 2015 at 10:51 AM

    Wha??? I see neither. When I was at photos, i saw both and all! 😳😳😳😳

  • Morgan

    Morgan

    March 11th, 2015 at 5:29 PM

    I thought it was gold and white. My dad thought it was black and blue. My step sister thought it was blue and green.

  • Jaziirah

    Jaziirah

    March 11th, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    I see wight and gold

  • Nikki

    Nikki

    March 11th, 2015 at 5:38 PM

    At first I saw black and blue but now I see white and gol

  • Vanessa C.

    Vanessa C.

    March 11th, 2015 at 8:49 PM

    I see a white and gold dress all day!

  • Julian M.

    Julian M.

    March 12th, 2015 at 6:03 AM

    White and that’s it

  • danielle b.

    danielle b.

    March 11th, 2015 at 9:36 PM

    i see white and gold.but my mama see blue and black.

  • alex

    alex

    March 11th, 2015 at 11:08 PM

    I see black and blue but when I go in sunlight its white and gold

  • Brenda

    Brenda

    March 12th, 2015 at 6:09 AM

    I think that we all already know what we saw and didn’t see, but I think that a bigger point that hopefully we can all take away from this is that sometimes what looks absolutely right to us seems so wrong to another. Yes there may actually only be one correct answer, butt hat does not mean that that will make it any easier for people to see that answer if they believe wholeheartedly in their side.

  • r

    r

    March 12th, 2015 at 8:01 AM

    it looks light blue and gold to me

  • Claudia

    Claudia

    March 12th, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    guys, look, we all see it in different ways (or differently).

  • Kat

    Kat

    March 12th, 2015 at 9:35 AM

    Well, I don’t understand the fuss and why people are arguing and fighting about this. I see white and gold and I think it is cool that we see things differently.

    What is the big deal? We are all different and do not process things the same way.

  • Smalls1307

    Smalls1307

    March 12th, 2015 at 1:20 PM

    I agree with you, Kat, but the very first time I saw the dress it was blue and black to me. I closed out of the picture, opened it up 5 minuets later, and saw blue and gold. Then the next day I woke up and saw it, and it was white and gold no matter what.

  • D.H

    D.H

    March 12th, 2015 at 9:56 AM

    I think it is white and gold my sister thinks its silver and gold and her friend thinks its purple and silver- its very strange

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    March 12th, 2015 at 10:51 AM

    I so love that people see different colored dresses. I applaud individuality and being true to yourself. Thanks Kat and r, sam, lazaria, Siydsue and Morgan,Jaziirah and Nikki, Vanessa, Danielle and Alex, and last but far from least Brenda!!

  • Rose

    Rose

    March 12th, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    Is the dress blue and black or white and gold

  • kamryn

    kamryn

    March 12th, 2015 at 11:08 AM

    at first i saw black and gold than i saw white and gold \ but now i know it is black and blue for the two days work of reasearch and im only 11 so i stayed up all night it mostly because our eyesa cant see all the exposher from the backround so if u try to conchenchate on the suroundings and you should be able to the true color black and blue.

  • Emily

    Emily

    March 12th, 2015 at 11:33 AM

    My mom says that it’s gold and black

  • hailie T.

    hailie T.

    March 12th, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    We all see differently. But I see gold and blue. Most people say its gold and white or black and blue but we all see different from each other

  • cole

    cole

    March 12th, 2015 at 12:29 PM

    I don’t understand. I went on every website I can find with the pic of the dress in it and on every website I see different color on time it’s blue-black the other website it’s yellow-white
    this makes no sence to me

  • cole

    cole

    March 12th, 2015 at 12:33 PM

    I see gold-Wight right now

  • Elle R.

    Elle R.

    March 12th, 2015 at 1:07 PM

    I saw blue and black at first now I’m seeing white and gold.

  • Ella

    Ella

    March 12th, 2015 at 2:36 PM

    I see white and gold, but to me the white seems to have a blue-ish tinge to it

  • Ella

    Ella

    March 12th, 2015 at 2:39 PM

    Also, it depends on which picture of it I see, because on some pictures I do see blue and black but as for the picture at the top I see
    white and gold.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    March 12th, 2015 at 5:51 PM

    Kamryn, you probably shouldn’t stay up all night, but you sure do know to stick with your research. When you look for the facts you can find them in the daytime too.
    Take care, thanks for writing,
    Lynn

  • Jay

    Jay

    March 12th, 2015 at 6:23 PM

    cc.cc/capt/capt.php?sc=3ws8
    Verify yourself and; see…
    Thumbs up for this!

  • Mimi

    Mimi

    March 12th, 2015 at 11:19 PM

    I saw blue & black at first but now I see it both ways.And sorry Emily but I’ve never heard of black and gold so her eyes might work a but different to a majority of people

  • Mimi

    Mimi

    March 12th, 2015 at 11:20 PM

    I usually see black and blue however my mum sees white and gold

  • Jocelyn

    Jocelyn

    March 13th, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    It was a trick designed to get us talking and it succeeded@!

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    March 13th, 2015 at 10:24 AM

    Wow, Jocelyn you’re right. IT is wonderful to see all the different points of view.
    Thanks!
    Take care,
    LYnn

  • Francine

    Francine

    March 14th, 2015 at 8:26 AM

    I can hardly believe that it took something as simple as this to get us engaged in a real conversation yet here we are all still talking about the dress
    I don’t think that that is a bad thing but wouldn’t it be nice if we could all get this interested in a conversation from time to time that actually matters and stood to make a real difference in this world?
    I am not sure what that prompt or spark would be, but I sure do hope that I am around when we figure it out.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    March 14th, 2015 at 5:10 PM

    Hi Francine,
    That dress is powerful– it’s gets us thinking and talking and maybe thinking some more about different points of view. “Truth is one, paths are many,” thats what they say at Integral Yoga, anyway.
    Thanks for writing. Is there a conversation that you’d like to start?
    Take care,
    Lynn

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