The Splitting Color Illusion From The Best Illusion Of The Year Contest Shows Exactly How Bad We Are At Perceiving Colors

Well, it looks like we're never, ever escaping the tyranny of The Dress — but it's OK, because optical illusions are cool. Not only that, but they can teach us a ton about ourselves, too. Case in point: The Splitting Color Illusion, which just took the top prize at the Best Illusion of the Year Contest (and yes, the Best Illusion of the Year Contest is an actual thing that exists in the world). It shows us… well, basically how bad we are at perceiving colors. But that's OK; it's useful to know where our weak points are, right? Besides, I'm pretty sure knowing how awful we are with processing colors explains why we were all so angry at each other for not seeing the same colors on that blasted dress.

The Best Illusion of the Year Contest describes itself as “a celebration of illusions and perception, created by the ingenuity of the world's premiere illusion creators.” Each year, anyone who has created an amazing illusion can submit it for consideration; from there, the Top 10 finalists are selected by a panel of impartial judges, after which Internet users at large on them. The top three winners receive both cash prizes and all the glory that goes along with knowing you've created something the Internet is both baffled by and loves.

This year's winning illusion is called the Splitting Color Illusion. Created by Mark Vergeer of Belgium, it demonstrates how we perceive colors — and how important the context in which we see them is. The other colors surrounding any given color might change the way we perceive it, which means that even if the color itself hasn't changed, our eyes and brains will view it as different. It's one of the reasons The Dress was so divisive.

Here's the breakdown of the illusion in six images (some still and some moving — look, everyone! I made some GIFs for you!); scroll down to watch the full video of it in action. And don't forget to head on over to the Best Illusion of the Year Contest's web page to take a look at the top 10 optical illusion finalists.

1. Look at These Stripes

They're identical — same colors, same movement pattern.

2. Now Watch the Top Stripe

See that yellow and blue block on the right? It's going to slide across until it's surrounding the top stripe.

3. What Do You See Now?

It's the exact same stripe — but the yellow and blue blocks around it trick our eyes, making it seem like the stripe is red and cyan and moving to the right.

4. Now Watch the Bottom Stripe

The red and cyan block on the left is going to slide over it in the same way the yellow and blue one did on the top.

5. What Do You See Now?

Again, it's the exact same stripe as the one on the top — but because of the red and cyan blocks, it now looks to our eyes like it's yellow and blue and moving to the left.

Here's another look at the illusion in action:

Crazy, right? By which I mean crazy awesome. Watch the full video of it below, and check out more over at the Best Illusion of the Year Contest's home on the web. Isn't science cool?

The Illusion contest on YouTube

Images: Illusion of the Year/YouTube (7)