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Exploring the Determinants of Color Perception Using #Thedress and Its Variants: The Role of Spatio-Chromatic Context, Chromatic Illumination, and Material–Light Interaction

Lookup NU author(s): Stacey Aston, Professor Anya Hurlbert, Bradley Pearce, Dr Matt Rudd, Dr Andreas Werner



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The colors that people see depend not only on the surface properties of objects but also on howthese properties interact with light as well as on how light reflected from objects interacts withan individual’s visual system. Because individual visual systems vary, the same visual stimulus mayelicit different perceptions from different individuals. #thedress phenomenon drove home thispoint: different individuals viewed the same image and reported it to be widely different colors:blue and black versus white and gold. This phenomenon inspired a collection of demonstrationspresented at VSS 2015 which showed how spatial and temporal manipulations of light spectraaffect people’s perceptions of material colors and illustrated the variability in individual colorperception. The demonstrations also explored the effects of temporal alterations inmetameric lights, including Maxwell’s Spot, an entoptic phenomenon. Crucially, the demonstrationsestablished that #thedress phenomenon occurs not only for images of the dress but also forthe real dress under real light sources of different spectral composition and spatial configurations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Aston S, Denisova K, Hurlbert A, Olkkonen M, Pearce B, Rudd M, Werner A, Xiao B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Perception

Year: 2020

Volume: 49

Issue: 11

Pages: 1235-1251

Print publication date: 01/11/2020

Online publication date: 12/11/2020

Acceptance date: 30/08/2020

Date deposited: 08/01/2021

ISSN (print): 0301-0066

ISSN (electronic): 1468-4233

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/0301006620963808


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Funder referenceFunder name
102562/Z/13/ZWellcome Trust
765121European Commission