Vision scientist explains science behind that blue and black (or white and gold) dress

UMSL's Carl Bassi

Carl Bassi, associate professor of optometry at UMSL, talked with St. Louis Magazine this week about the dress that captured the Internet’s attention. (Photo by August Jennewein)

There’s no question. We know exactly what we see. The dress is clearly black and blue. No, wait. It’s white and gold. Or … maybe it’s something in between?

The debate on the colors of a striped dress took over the Internet last week. Spouses, friends and coworkers were divided on what they were seeing.

There is, of course, a scientific explanation for this strange phenomenon. Carl Bassi, associate professor of optometry at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, helped explain just what was going on here.

“Once you have a perception, your brain works to make it seem constant, because we assume the real stimulus is not changing. We don’t want it to change,” Bassi told Jeanette Cooperman for a St. Louis Magazine article. “The dress highlighted how the same thing can be seen as different colors. People were convinced they saw what they saw — and they’re right, they did. Color depends on how the brain processes the stimulus.”

For the record, Bassi saw white and gold.

You can read the entire article at St. Louis Magazine’s website.


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