Is this dress white and gold or black and blue? The experts have an answer

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Caitlin McNeill

What color is this dress? It’s a simple question, and most of the time, everyone would give a very similar answer. But this particular dress has split opinion, to the point where discussion has caused websites to crash, the seas to boil, and currencies collapse (OK, maybe not those last two, but it’s close). Is it gold and white, or is it black and blue?

That’s quite a difference people are seeing. It’s not a minor difference like debating between teal and turquoise, so what’s going on? Even neuroscientists are weighing in on why different people are seeing such drastically different colors. According to Bevil Conway, who  studies color and vision at Wellesley College, it’s about individual differences in the way our eyes see colors.

“What’s happening here is your visual system is looking at this thing, and you’re trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis,” she said, referring to the way humans have evolved to see colors differently in different lights – like daylight. “So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they see blue and black.”

It goes beyond the differences in the way our eyes interpret colors, according to John Borghi, who spoke to BuzzFeed on the subject. The brain could have been influenced by something you looked at before seeing the dress, or even that you’d seen similar dresses or fabric before, and that altered your perception. It’s a common trait called “priming,” said Borghi.

Age could also come into the equation, with older people being less sensitive to blue light, and therefore seeing white and gold. Additionally, the lighting in the photo also plays tricks with our vision, as do digital images in general. Ultimately, only seeing the dress in real life is enough to answer the question of what color it really is.


Before destroying the Internet and all productivity for the day, the dress started life as a photo on Tumblr, where a Scottish singer Caitlin McNeill posed the fateful question: “Is this dress white and gold, or blue and black?” The dress has since been examined by everyone from Taylor Swift to software from Adobe – the latter of which says it’s black and blue. Check the dress out on Amazon if you need further proof. Weirdly, when I started writing this, I saw a gold and white dress. Having stared at the stupid thing on different websites over the past hour or so, I now see black and blue. It’s all quite disturbing. Radiolab tackled how our eyes perceive blue as well, here. Tell us, what colors do you see?