Why do some people see this shoe as pink and white while others perceive it as gray and teal? The answer is all about your eyes, not your personality.
It’s a flashback to 2015, when The Great Dress Debate took social media by storm. If you recall, an image was circulating showing a dress in low lighting — some people swore the dress was gold and white, while others saw it as black and blue. The image above shows the exact same shoe, but in different lighting. Does the one on the right still look pink and white to you, or does it appear teal and gray?
Opinions on the color perception in the second photo are mixed, although an informal Buzzfeed poll showed that most people see it as gray and teal. So, how is it possible that some people will swear the shoe is pink and white while others see gray and teal? The answer lies in the way our eyes perceive light and color, but the conditions of the photo are also to blame. When the lighting in a photo isn’t “pure” — that is, the lighting adds color to the scene, the subject of the picture is affected. Essentially, this confuses our brains, which desperately try to compensate and “estimate” what color is actually being depicted.
In the back of your eyeballs, there is a sheet of nerve tissue filled with tiny little cones. Those cones are responsible for detecting color (in both real life and pictures), and your brain then interprets the color information the cones are mixing together and sending down your neural pathways.
Something happens during that mixing process where your brain guesses the actual color of the object (in this case, the shoe) and attempts to compensate for the poor lighting in the photo. In that moment, our individualism has a chance to assert itself, as everybody will make slightly different unconscious tweaks as their brain tries to figure out what the true color of the object is. It’s in that moment of subjectivity and passive light filtering that some people will be led to see a pink and white shoe, and others will swear it’s gray and teal.
No, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with your vision if you see one instead of the other. And no, it doesn’t provide insight to whether you see the world as an optimist or pessimist, as some social media memes purport to claim. It’s just another fascinating quirk of human biology and a reminder that our senses are not absolute or infallible. So, which color do you see?