Read former LBM fellow Michael Buice’s explanation of the dress colour illusion.
Huffington Post: …In the case of the dress, one’s assumptions about lighting have a strong impact on the perceived color. In particular, your perception will be affected by whether your visual system sees the dress as being in bright light or in shadow. Comic book coloristNathan Fairbairn put together the following in order to illustrate these two different potential hypotheses about light and color in the picture.
So what happens if we try to remove contextual information? It so happens that these average colors are close to being inverses of one another. Inverting them gives us:
Inverting the colors in the original photo should approximately “swap” the two colors on the dress, as well as remove contextual information (or perhaps render it nonsensical). The color inverted dress looks like:
I see white-and-gold here, and I saw white-and-gold in the original. My wife is a die hard Black-and-bluer, and she sees the inverted dress as light-blue-and-gold. Notice that the image now has artifacts that look (to me anyway) like damage in an old photograph. This is a sample size of one, so I’m curious to know if this inversion changes the perceptions of any other black-and-bluers out there.
We know that training can alter the “light-from-above” prior, and it seems plausible that people’s differing perceptions of the photo are due to their different experience, and in particular their experience with light, shading, material, and overexposed photographs.
Our brains have to make guesses, but they don’t always make the same guesses, even though we live in the same world. One of the hardest inference problems our brains have to solve is figuring out how everyone else sees the world. Perhaps with some very hard work, I can be a Black-and-bluer, too.
Michael Buice is a scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. His research interests are in identifying and understanding the mechanisms and principles that the nervous system uses to perform the inferences which allow us to perceive the world.