Sammy Nickalls
Updated February 27, 2015
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If you weren’t on social media last night, you missed the biggest controversy of the century. OK, maybe we’re being a little hyperbolic, but you guys, this was a huge deal with so many unanswered questions we needed to get to the bottom of. So we did.

It all started when Tumblr user Swiked uploaded the below picture with the following caption:
“guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we’re freaking the f*** out”

The responses on Tumblr seemed to be split down the middle. Some people thought it was blue and black, others thought it was white and gold. Others just couldn’t even deal.

We all wondered. . .WAS THE WORLD GOING TO END WITH A DRESS? It started to get aggressive. Teams started to form. And even celebs started to join in:

Some people tried to use Photoshop to track the colors to prove their point, but it seemed to work out both ways. Why? “You’re doing this very bad trick, which is projecting those patches on a white background,” Bevil Conway told Wired. “Show that same patch on a neutral black background and I bet it would appear orange.”So what color is the dress?!

Wired helped us out. It’s not about social media, they explained—it’s about science. Essentially, your brain normally figures out what color you’re looking at and subtracts any color that might be interfering with “whatever wavelengths are illuminating the world, reflecting off whatever you’re looking at.”

Usually, that’s just a fine-and-dandy system, but this image seemed to have hit that sweet spot where it doesn’t work out quite as well. “What’s happening here is your visual system is looking at this thing, and you’re trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis,” Conway told Wired. “So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which they end up with blue and black.” So the reason we’re seeing it differently is because of how our brains are processing it. “Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance,” Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, told Wired. “But I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.”Unfortunately for Team White And Gold (which I’m a part of, BTW), the dress is indeed blue and black. Here’s a visual of what people have been seeing: