Differences in Illumination Estimation in #thedress

J Vis. 2017 Jan 1;17(1):22. doi: 10.1167/17.1.22.


We investigated whether people who report different colors for #thedress do so because they have different assumptions about the illumination in #thedress scene. We introduced a spherical illumination probe (Koenderink, Pont, van Doorn, Kappers, & Todd, 2007) into the original photograph, placed in fore-, or background of the scene and-for each location-let observers manipulate the probe's chromaticity, intensity and the direction of the illumination. Their task was to adjust the probe such that it would appear as a white sphere in the scene. When the probe was located in the foreground, observers who reported the dress to be white (white perceivers) tended to produce bluer adjustments than observers who reported it as blue (blue perceivers). Blue perceivers tended to perceive the illumination as less chromatic. There were no differences in chromaticity settings between perceiver types for the probe placed in the background. Perceiver types also did not differ in their illumination intensity and direction estimates across probe locations. These results provide direct support for the idea that the ambiguity in the perceived color of the dress can be explained by the different assumptions that people have about the illumination chromaticity in the foreground of the scene. In a second experiment we explore the possibility that blue perceivers might overall be less sensitive to contextual cues, and measure white and blue perceivers' dress color matches and labels for manipulated versions of the original photo. Results indeed confirm that contextual cues predominantly affect white perceivers.

MeSH terms

  • Color
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Form Perception / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lighting
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*