This has been a strange couple of days for the Internet. Yesterday, while some of us were still reeling over the great llama chase of 2015, others were arguing over the colors of a party dress. If you missed it, a photo of a mysteriously-colored dress posted on Tumblr drove people and news outlets into raucous debate — dividing those who thought the dress was white and gold from others who saw it as blue and black (and some who saw both).
Turns out, the photo is an optical illusion. What colors you see depends on how your brain processes the coloring in the image.
TEDxUIUC speaker Daniel Simons, head of the Visual Cognition Laboratory at the University of Illinois, studies things like the blue/black/white/gold dress problem like it’s his job (because it is), and in a fascinating talk, he explore the limits of our perceptions:
“You feel like you’re seeing the world in all its completeness and detail; you feel you’re experiencing the world as it is, but that experience, as it turns out is an illusion. What you actually experience, is what your mind and your brain give you. It’s an alternate reality …
We think we see all of the detail around us; we don’t … in reality, two people looking at exactly the same world could be taking in different information at the same time.”
Like a blue or a white dress. Or, the color of these chess pieces:
Watch Simon’s whole talk for more bizarre visual illusions and information on why we see what isn’t:
Insight from the TEDx office — why we like this talk:
The speaker is an expert in his field who gives an entertaining and well-researched talk on his idea — that it is important to consider the limits of our visual (and other) perceptions when considering how we see the world and examining how others perceive it. He supports his idea with evidence from his and others’ research and uses language that is straightforward and understandable to non-experts.