For Glamour, by Jillian Kramer.
Is it blue? Or is it gold? The debate surrounding the color of “The Dress” dominated a not-insignificant portion of 2015 (such carefree times!). But, two years on, another theory has surfaced about why we saw two completely different colors while looking at the exact same photo. New research out of NYU shows a surprising connection between night owls, early risers, and what color they saw looking at The Dress.
Soon after the snapshot of the now-infamous cocktail dress nearly broke the Internet, scientists offered one potential explanation for why we saw the two different colors: Our brains were making unconscious assumptions about the conditions under which the photo was taken. In other words, those of us who saw a gold dress assumed the picture was taken in the shadows, and those of us who saw a blue dress assumed photo was bathed in artificial light.
However, a new study released this week in the Journal of Vision indicates that what time we wake up and go to bed seems to correlate with what light we view the dress in — and therefore, what color it appears to us.
Early risers are more likely to view the dress as gold, according to NYU clinical assistant professor of psychology Pascal Wallisch’s study of 13,000 people. Night owls, conversely, mostly saw the dress as blue. Wallisch’s research surmises that there’s the connection because people who wake up earlier are exposed to more natural light over their lifetimes, while those who burn the midnight oil, so to speak, are more accustomed to artificial light.
Of course, this is a correlation, not causation, so don’t count on this being a definite answer: There could be other factors at play that the study didn’t address that affect how you see it. Further, correlations only point to interesting connections — not actual answers.
So if you’re an early riser convinced the dress is blue, you’re probably not alone — and this new study still might not give you much solace: the data is admittedly “noisy,” meaning that there were quite a few contradictions that popped up. (In fact, the study’s author says he is a night owl who sees a gold dress.) But hey, at least we’re at least a little closer to possibly understanding the phenomenon than we were before.
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