Bloomington, MN | Dr. Dan Davis Explains the Dress Phenomenon on Fox 9 News | Chu Vision Institute

Dr Dan Davis from Chu Vision Institute meets with Cody Matz, FOX 9 News, to discuss the Dress Phenomenon which took the internet by storm.


Host 1: We know it now as the dress. Of course, it took the internet by storm and you may remember the image of the controversial dress that some people see as black and blue, while others see white and gold. Now the image popped up on Thursday on Tumblr and our news room broke out into arguments. I think the whole internet broke out into arguments on exactly what color this dress really was. Well, it's all has to do, of course, with something that we see with your vision and joining us this morning with more on the phenomenon is Dr. Dan Davis from the Chu Vision Institute in Bloomington. Good morning.

Dr. Dan Davis: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Host 1: No problem. Okay, so here are the three pictures. Let's get the first one up here, that's the one that appeared on Tumblr. I see this as black and blue. I don't know what colors you see it as.

Dr. Dan Davis: I see white and gold.

Host 1: You see white and gold, really?

Dr. Dan Davis: Totally white and gold, yep.

Host 1: Okay. So why is that? Why do we see two different colors and it's the same dress?

Dr. Dan Davis: The neuroscience behind it is, light enters our eyes, focused by the lens and the cornea. And it goes to the photoreceptors where it's processed. It's different kinds of cells in the photoreceptors, the rods and the cones. The rods, they help us see light from dark and the cones help us perceive color. The key thread that you hear about this is the lighting of the dress and how our brains perceive things. So in this instance, the lighting is kind of imperfect on this. It's very ambiguous lighting, right?

Host 1: It's pretty terrible lighting. I mean, it actually shows up better in this one. Because these are some of the images that were going around on the internet. And so when some people looked at this, it was obviously black and blue but some of the images looked like this and it's like, okay, I could see how this would be white and gold.

Dr. Dan Davis: Yeah. Since the lighting is so ambiguous, it forces our brain to make a choice. And if our brain has a color bias towards something being either overexposed or underexposed. Like if an image is overexposed, it can come out whitewashed. If it's overexposed, it can come out as color-saturated. So our brain has to make that decision. And so based upon our perception, how much blue we perceive in the picture, we may see it as white and gold.

Host 1: So it's kind of like the problems with the old... the cameras that gave you the instant picture and some of them would come out overexposed and you look like this and go, oh, I shouldn't have had the flash on.

Dr. Dan Davis: That's right.

Host 1: So it's the same kind of concept?

Dr. Dan Davis: You got it.

Host 1: Okay. Interesting. I know that these were the two original girls that actually basically were arguing about the image. And this created so much buzz on social media. Tumblr had 26 million views, more views on this than any other picture that they've had in one day. So it's amazing that this can actually translate into something that we all actually deal with on a daily basis. Can you give us some other examples of what we may see? Like for instance, you see white and gold. I see black and blue. Is there anything in nature that would have the same sort of effect on our eyeballs?

Dr. Dan Davis: Yeah. It's kind of like when you see the picture of... did you see the two people looking at each other, the vase in the middle?

Host 1: Oh, yeah. Okay.

Dr. Dan Davis: How the brain interprets that, it can flip back and forth. That's why some people may see it one time as white and gold, and they may see it the other time as black and blue. Their perception shifts on it.

Host 1: So if you just take a look at this picture and you can actually see black and gold or...

Dr. Dan Davis: I'm white and gold.

Host 1: Yeah. You're white and gold.

Leah: Real quick. So I've seen both.

Host 1: Yeah, I was about to ask that question-

Leah: I've seen both.

Host 1: So, Leah has seen both. So if I look at this one time, say right now, I see blue and black, but I go to look at it two hours from now and see white and gold. That's normal?

Dr. Dan Davis: Yeah. Your color perception is shifting. So the way that you are perceiving your light bias is, you are able to switch that. I have it. I've seen white and gold the whole way through.

Host 1: Huh, well there you know. I like that. That's impressive. We'll just call it rainbow color. It's every color in the rainbow. We'll just do it that.

Dr. Dan Davis: Nobody's wrong, everybody's right.

Host 1: Works for me. Hopefully that gets rid of some of the arguings. Dr. Dan. Thank you very much. We appreciate you being here.

Dr. Dan Davis: Thank you for having me.

Host 1: Yeah.