“That dress is BLUE!” – 50% of people before the internet imploded
On February 15, 2015 something terrible happened. Half of the world’s population spontaneously decided that the other half of the world’s population had categorically lost its mind.
“Do you believe that she thinks that dress is gold and white? HA HA!” You said to a room of people you trust… but only some of them were nodding. Some of your very own friends, family and close-knit work crew were looking at you like you had somehow lost YOUR mind!
Brother against brother! Cubenate against cubemate!
It took the internet almost 3 full minutes to recognize that a perceptual battle royale was underway and turn it into a viral phenomenon bestowed with the internet’s biggest honor: people said it “broke the internet.”
How ON EARTH could anyone see a blue dress? It’s just NOT POSSIBLE.
What’s that? You see a blue dress?
WHAT IS HAPPENING!
The craziest part of the dress that broke the internet is that we still don’t quite know WHY this is happening. But, believe me, we’ve been trying to figure it out. Immediately, photographers, psychologists and color theorists were driven into existential spasms of despair as they raced against the clock, striving to be the first to figure it out.
The British Psychological Society recently reported on three years of research (!) ending with this surprising conclusion: “We still don’t know why.” (But there were some very interesting theories!)
Everything about that dress should result in every single person seeing a blue dress. And yet, only some of us do. Could it be that even the most concrete things are, to a degree, subjective?
One of the prevailing hardships of the dress is that unlike most other optical illusions, this one is very stable. it’s HARD to change it. This is why people will fight to the death about it, if you see it one way you CANNOT UNDERSTAND how you could see it the other way.
But, hard, is not impossible.
I’ve trained myself to see both the gold and white and blue and black, and I’ll give you the trick I use. But, before you read on I want to warn you: it will legitimately hurt your eyes to go from one to the other and back. You might get a headache. Seriously.
Ok, I started (and always start) with the gold and white dress. Now put the image in a viewer (like this email) and scroll until only the bottom row or two of the dress is visible. Let your eyes go out of focus, or look at it with your peripheral vision. At first it will look the same but then you’ll catch a flicker of black. Believe in that flicker of black. <-That is the key. The dress will begin to darken before your eyes. The gold will become black first, and the blue will fade in.
You will watch in real time as your brain figure out a new reality.
Once the dress is blue, you can close your eyes, believe in the white dress, scroll up and open your eyes. The dress will be white again. I don’t know how many times this will work because my eyes were throbbing and I stopped.
Now, ponder: What other rock-hard certainty might we be able to shift if we believe?
It’s worse than you think!
The gold and white dress was not the first optical illusion to turn the internet on its head. A mere 7 years earlier, this dancing girl made the rounds.
To give it legitimacy, it was originally touted as a test for whether you are left or right brain dominant. I liked that theory because I like to think of myself as totally balanced between the right and left brain and this girl never stops switching direction for me. So naturally, that theory turns out to be false, as the The New York Times describes for us in its signature “rain on your parade with information” style.
This one can make people CRAZY if they can’t get the girl to turn around and go the other way. I think it’e because every few seconds someone else in the room will go “Oh, there she goes” thereby infuriating and recommitting the viewer at the same time.
Here’s a tip if you are struggling to get her to turn; Give yourself a break for a minute and then close your eyes. Imagine her spinning in the other direction. BELIEVE in that image and when you open your eyes there’s a good chance she’ll be going that way now, too.
Is there anything we can trust?
Most of life is even more obviously constructed than the color of this dress or the direction that girl is spinning. But our commitment is often just as strong to “I can’t ask for a raise” or “no one will pay me for my help” or “I’m not beautiful” or “I’m just not a math person” as it is to “the dress is white and gold.”
And, yet, even that entirely concrete, utterly objective “fact” is wrong.
So maybe some of those other beliefs could be wrong, too?
Just a thought.
Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.