Disambiguating the Lessons from the Ambiguous-Colored Dress

Dress-ambiguousMany will recall the intense Feb. 2015 internet and media storm around the ‘is-it-black/blue’ or ‘is-it-white/gold’ Tumblr dress photo. It’s now become the focus of an international group of colour scientists, who have performed the first [we believe] laboratory-based study centering around the famous photo. The team, from the universities of Granada and Extremadura in Spain, and the Rochester Institute of Technology, in the US, not performed a technical examination of the photo itself, but also purchased one of the dresses and measured spectral reflectance factors at five different blue/white and black/gold points using a GretagMacbeth Spectrolino spectrophotometer with 45/0 geometry. A number (7) of quite complex conclusions were reached, regarding not only the physical colour characteristics of the material, but also the psychological factors which might influence our perception of the dress. Noting that :

“Properly, it must be considered that objects do not have a specific color, but a color which may change with the lighting source, background behind samples, and so forth. It must be said that color is a unique human perception, and the problem considered here is a good example of this fact. The complexity of the human visual system is another unquestionable fact.”

The full paper can currently be accessed here in the latest online issue of the journal Color Research & Application ‘What Can We Learn from a Dress with Ambiguous Colors?’

Note: The authors also alert us to more forthcoming scholarly considerations of the dress: “Currently, the Journal of Vision intends to publish a special issue on the perceived color of this dress.” We shall of course endeavour to keep readers informed.

BONUS: Video of the Spectrolino spectrophotometer at work: