The Blue & Black Vs. White & Gold Dress Debate, Explained — Plus 7 Other Optical Illusions To Totally Confuse You
Last night, you went to sleep in a reasonable world, a place where reality followed a certain set of rules and things at least kinda mostly made sense; but today, you woke up to a parallel universe of madness and nonsense, a world where up is down, left is right, and a bunch of people think that this blue and black dress is white and gold. You might feel hurt, you might feel confused, you might feel like people who can't tell that THIS DRESS IS OBVIOUSLY BLUE AND BLACK shouldn't be allowed to operate heavy machinery. These are strange times, and all your feelings are valid (except for feelings that the dress is white and gold, which are wrong). Turns out, the dress looks white and gold to some people because of the lighting, the background colors, and the quirks of how our eyes take in different color tones. (Now admit that you're wrong, white dress truthers.)
But the blue and black dress is only the latest in a long line of optical illusions that have ruined lives, destroyed friendships, and inflamed all of our yelling-est emotions. Optical illusions have mesmerized and tormented humanity since the beginning of time; ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle tried to provide an explanation for how they worked around 350 B.C. A little more recently, in the '90s, our culture was torn apart by magic eye posters, those neon-colored, psychedelic optical illusion images that divided our nation into people who could see the hidden image and people who driven into fits of helpless rage by our inability to see the hidden image.
So in honor of the blue and black dress/our fragile grip on the nature of reality, here are seven other optical illusions that you can use to frustrate your friends, confuse your enemies, and eventually convince yourself that life is the biggest optical illusion of all, maaaaaan.
The Left Brain-Right Brain Twirling Woman
What direction is this woman spinning in? The rumor about this optical illusion is that whether she appears to be spinning to the left or the right has to do with the viewer's brain — those who are primarily left brain thinkers will see her spin counter-clockwise, those who are primarily right brain thinkers will see her spin clockwise, those who use both halves of their brain equally will explode into flames, etc. But in reality, the direction she spins in has to do with your perception of some ambiguous frames of the animation, and has nothing to do with whether you're good at math or whatsoever.
The Grey Square Checkerboard
See the squares marked "A" and "B"? What colors do you think they are? Well, whatever you said was almost definitely wrong, because they are the SAME COLOR, MOFOS! The illusion that "B" is lighter is a visual trick created by both the shadow cast by the green cylinder, and the fact that the squares surrounding the "B" square are extra dark.
God, we really are probably just living in The Matrix, right?
The Blue Circle That Wasn't
Are you seeing a light neon blue circle here, with bright blue lines and then lighter blue portions between those lines? So am I, but guess what: we are both wrong! The background area within the blue lines is white, but our eyes are tricked into perceiving it as blue due to a phenomenon called neon color spreading.
Nothing is real! And to think, your parents called your philosophy degree "a waste of money."
The Vase Faces
Was anyone else frustrated to the point of tears as a child because they could only see the vase? No? Only me? Cool.
Anyway, this optical image, called a "Rubin vase," was developed in 1915 by a Danish psychologist named Edgar Rubin. The illusion works because our brains make something called a "figure-ground distinction" when looking at images — in any picture, our brains can only interpret one part as the picture's primary figure, and see everything else as background, which is why you cannot see the vase and the faces at the same time.
Oh my god, guys, is this a duck or a rabbit? Does it even matter? Should we all abandon the Internet and go live in caves, because it turns out that nothing actually has a set, inherent meaning, and what's the point in pretending that we even have a handle on existence?
This existential crisis-invoking illustration was first published in 1892 in a German humor magazine called Fliegende Blätter, but was the duck-rabbit illusion was later popularized by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein as an example of the philosophical issues at work in human perception (so see, I was not kidding about the existential crisis stuff).
'50 Shades of Red' (Okay, Actually Just Two Shades of Red)
Do the red lines on the left seem to be a lighter shade of red than the red lines on the right? Yes, they do, and yes, that is wrong. We interpret the colors that way due to a phenomenon called the Bezoid Effect, which causes our perception of colors to be influenced by the colors surrounding them. You know, like the way certain blue and black dresses might appear to be different colors due to the white and gold tones in the background of the photo...
The Green Dot That Exists Only In Your Mind
Stare at the black cross in the middle of this GIF for ten seconds. Okay, are you starting to see a green dot pop up in the gaps between the pink dots? This is due to the afterimage effect, which causes the rods and cones in your eyes to see a color's opposite after focusing on it for a prolonged period of time. But wait!
What if every color we think we see is just the afterimage of another color? What if life is just a series of tricks played by our rods and cones? What if every night, when you think you are asleep, you're actually leading a group of local men in a violent "fight club" whose mission is rapidly spinning out of control? It could all be true! Anything could be true now! Reality means nothing! THANKS A LOT, BLUE AND BLACK DRESS.