2015 was the year that The Dress divided the world. Half of viewers saw that the controversial dress was black and blue, while others saw it as white and gold. Scientists say that our biological clocks may be the reason behind this difference.
A Scottish mother-of-the-bride took a photo of the soon-to-be-viral dress she planned to wear to the wedding and sent it to her daughter. The mother and daughter disagreed over the dress's color, so the daughter posted the photo on Facebook to get her friends' input.
The rest, as they say, is history. The photo of the divisive dress made its rounds on the Internet and separated viewers into two sides.
According to a new study, exposure to daylight has something to do with these two different perceptions. People who sleep and wake up early and spend most of their day in sunlight are more likely to see the dress's colors as white and gold. Night owls, whose irregular waking hours are illuminated more often by artificial light, see black and blue. Our exposure to different kinds of light thus influences our color perception.
The researcher, Pascal Wallisch, conducted two different online surveys to get to the bottom of the matter. He began one survey, which had 8,000 respondents, shortly after the photo went viral in 2015. He conducted another survey, which had 5,300 respondents, a year later.
The surveys asked participants whether they perceived the dress as black and blue or white and gold. Participants also had to indicate whether they spent more time inside or outside, and whether they're early birds or night owls. They also had to indicate if they thought that the dress was in the shadow or in natural light.
In the first survey, 59% of participants saw white and gold, while 27% saw black and blue. 9% saw a combination of blue and gold, while less than 1% saw black and white. 3% saw other colors, while over 1% saw “ambiguous” colors. The second survey had similar results, and Wallisch also discovered that the results of his surveys were similar to other large-scale surveys on the dress's colors.
In the course of the study, Wallisch was able to prove his hypothesis. Early birds were indeed more likely to see the dress as white and gold, while night owls saw black and blue. People who slept and woke up early were also more like to assume that artificial light illuminated the contentious dress. Assumptions about the light source influenced people's color perception.
Lifestyles, in turn, influenced these assumptions. There were discernible patterns in lifestyle, light source assumptions, and ultimate color perception. Early birds who slept and woke up earlier and spent more time in the sun assumed that the light source in the photo is natural. These people were more likely to see white and gold. Night owls who slept and woke up later and spent more time in artificial light assumed that the photo had an artificial light source as well. These people were more likely to see black and blue.
For what it's worth, The Dress was actually black and blue, and a white and gold version doesn't actually exist.
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