Are you a "the dress is blue and black" kind of person? Well, according to Dr. Stephen Macknik, professor of ophthalmology and neurology at State University of New York, Justin Bieber could be to blame.
"When you have someone famous saying they see something a certain way, then all of their followers are going to tend to want to believe them," Macknik told MTV News.
If you have eyes, you've likely borne witness these past 12 hours or so to the internet going absolutely batsh-t over a photo of a dress that a Tumblr user uploaded with the caption, "guys please help me -- is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the fu-- out."
My sister sent me the story last night while I was taking a break from llamas and whatnot. She saw the dress as white and gold. Her husband, looking on on the same computer, saw it as blue and black. I saw it as white as gold as well. And my cat, well, she lay across the keyboard and turned on iTunes.
Soon enough, myriad celebrities also jumped into the fray, Justin Bieber sharing that he saw blue and black, Taylor Swift agreeing and Ariana Grande basically just dismissing it as "ugly."
Reports started pouring in -- because this is an important issue, guys -- claiming that the dress, IRL, is, indeed, blue and black, while news outlets reached out to experts at a dizzying pace.
Dr. Macknik took a look at all that coverage and came to the following conclusion: "I don't believe that this is a issue of the brain. I don't think that this is an interesting neuroscientific issue at all -- I think that this is a photographic presentation issue. And it has simply to do with the amount of contrast in the image presented by different monitors."
So, how you see the dress depends on what computer or device you're using and its screen, according to Macknik.
"Some of the experts are saying that you could get this effect through color constancy or through different kinds of effects probably not due to color-blindness of things in the retina," Macknik said.
Color constancy is basically the tendency for you to see certain objects as designated colors, regardless of how light it is outside. So, you see an apple as red whatever time of day it is because you associate an apple with being red.
Macknik, however, is doubtful that color constancy is at play here -- instead, he blames your smartphone.
"The dress can either be white and gold underneath a blue light, or it can be blue and black under a dim gold light -- that can explain what everyone is seeing," Macknik says. "The reason that you see different things depending on who you are would have to do with the way that the dress is being presented to you on your monitor. ... The luminance of the monitor gives you different effects.
"What this looks like to me," he added, "is that someone took a photograph of this dress with a camera that wasn't very high-quality with a lot of back-lighting and they uploaded it, and that image has been seen by various people under different luminance conditions on their screens so that you can see it as either white and gold or blue and black."
So what about my sister and bro-in-law, who looked at the dress on the same computer and saw different things? Is my bro a giant liar? Should I warn my sis? Is he going to steal our souls?
"When you have two people looking at the same monitor claiming they see different things, then that becomes potentially interesting," Macknik said. "But it's still not a color constancy effect -- because color constancy works the same way for everybody. This is something else. It's very hard to explain that without invoking something like color-blindess, which is fairly rare."
So, maybe, then we could blame the power of suggestion? Could we be seeing the dress as black and blue because Bieber and Taylor and scads of people on the internet said they did, too?
Macknik thinks perhaps so. "Essentially, I think this became a thing -- a big issue -- because famous people got involved," he said. "I'm very pleased that this happened, because as a visual neuroscientist, I like this kind of discussion, but I think that this could be fairly easily resolved by taking this picture of the dress under sunlight."