Did it happen over night for you like it did for me?
I woke up to find a friend had written a post about a dress and why some saw it as ‘black and blue’ and others as ‘white and gold’. He often writes comical posts so I thought it was a prank – the dress was clearly black and blue. No doubt about it.
But as I popped on Facebook during the day I saw a huge number of threads about this blasted dress. It was the same on Twitter too. The internet was, it seemed, awash with dresses. I clicked on one post explaining why this illusion works and was rather shocked, when looking at a large picture of the dress, to see it was now, very clearly, white and gold.
There was almost a heated argument when Wifey and Things I & II returned home at the end of the day. Thing I and I were adamant the dress was white and gold. Wifey was incredulous and thought we were pratting about. It was bloody obvious the dress was blue and black.
By the next day, of course, the internet was full of jokes about the picture (my favourite being the Dr Who one below) and – fickle as the internet is – criticisms and Facebook posts of how fed up everyone is about the damned thing. Who cares? seemed to be the general opinion and the fuss died down.
I thought nothing more about it, though I wondered if the person who took the original picture ever expected it to not just go viral but super-viral, until I came across some psychology research this morning.
Psychologist William Hart has found that optical illusions – like the dress – can actually help counter “naive realism” – people’s instinctive belief that they perceive the world how it actually is. I’ll let you read a report for yourself here (it also contains a link the research itself if you wish to explore further) but basically Hart found that combining explaining to subjects about naive realism with looking at optical illusions made them more open-minded and doubtful of their perceptions when asked to judge the character of four people presented in written form and deliberately ambiguously.
So, assuming we learn something about the psychology of perception and how we’re easily and unconsciously swayed by everything around us, looking at that ‘damned dress’ might actually be beneficial not just to us but to the whole of society. Who would have thought it?
And if you don’t believe me that you can be so easily persuaded to believe things which aren’t true, take a look at this image I came across a few days ago. The list(s) aren’t complete (there’s plenty of other things I could add to both) but the point is a good one. We’re told what to think by the media every single day. In the UK, with elections fast approaching and the politicians throwing bucket-loads of social psychology at us to gain our vote, maybe the best thing we could do to objectively weigh up the truth of their promises is spend some time looking at dresses?
The dress, by the way, is absolutely white and gold. All other opinions are wrong. End of.