Those still baffled by The Dress, rejoice! Science has finally found a sound reason for the different color perceptions of that damned dress. It’s two years later — but better late than never! The differences in perception are caused by our differing assumptions about how the dress was illuminated, according to a new study conducted at NYU.
The school’s Department of Psychology conducted an online survey of 13,417 participants from around the world. They were asked to answer questions about their subjective experience of the dress stimulus. Questions included what colors they saw when they first saw the dress (duh), whether their opinion had changed since then, whether they thought the dress was in a shadow, whether they knew the true color of the dress when they first saw it, what the time and day was when they first saw the dress, what kind of device they saw it on, and whether it was inside or outside.
Researchers also measured environmental factors, such as whether the participants grew up in the city or the country, whether they currently lived in city or country, and whether they spend most of their time inside or outside. In the second round of questioning, they asked whether they believed artificial or natural lighting was illuminating the dress.
They found that assumptions about illumination really do “matter most when determining the percept of an individual when viewing the dress stimulus for the first time” — meaning whether people assumed the dress was naturally lit or in shadows affected what they perceived its colors to be. “Assumptions about the nature of the illuminant are strongly associated with different perceptions of the dress,” said the study. Therefore, “illumination assumptions explain the dress effect.”
Earlier research came up with other excuses for the differences. One suggested gender, noting that women were more likely to see white and gold, but for reasons that are not clear.
It is important to note, however, that these results are based on the fact that more than half of the study participants saw the dress as white and gold … which we all know is not the case.
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