“The Dress” Resurrected: Color-Changing Shoe Breaks Internet

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8:39 PM HKT, Thu May 9, 2019 2 mins read

Remember the blue and black dress (or was it white and gold?) that broke the internet in 2015? Now a pair of women’s sneakers is reigniting the color debate.

The picture, which first appeared in 2017, was recently rediscovered and has been spreading like wildfire across WeChat and Weibo.

While some see a pink shoe with white laces, others see gray with teal accents. In true internet fashion, both camps are adamant that their side is correct.

On the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, the hashtags “Gray and green or pink and white” (#灰绿还是粉白#) and “Actually, is this really related to left and right brain” (#其实是不是真的和左脑右脑有关呢#) garnered 1.1 million and 1.19 million impressions respectively, and elicited both confused and exasperated responses:

“What color is this shoe? It’s obviously pink and white, but many people say it’s gray and green! Turns out everyone’s vision is very different!”

“Are you serious? This is gray and green. Is there a problem with my eyes?”

“Bro, this picture is from years ago.”

Some tech-savvy netizens even turned to Photoshop to prove their stances:

“Actually, this picture originally appears gray and green. There is no difference in color perception or whatever. Those who see pink and white have mentally processed the picture. The color picker in Photoshop tells us which colors are truly in this picture.”

What color are the shoes? Turns out, Team Pink-and-White has full gloating rights. According to Vans, the skate classics are “mahogany rose and true white.” (If you’re in denial, try tweaking the white balance of the original picture.)

Besides being a neat optical illusion, this meme is also fronting as a psychological test: many wrote that if the right-half of your brain is dominant, you’ll see pink and white; if the left-half is dominant, you’ll see gray and green. Those who fall into the former category tend to be emotional and creative, while the latter are more analytical and rational.

However, science journalist Erin Biba pointed out that the premise of dominant brain sides is a “pseudoscience myth” and that circulating such false information is “highly irresponsible” for a news organization.

The real reason for the difference in colors comes down to how our brain interprets light, eye experts say. “Basically, your visual system is constantly trying to color-correct the images projected on the retina, to remove the color contamination introduced by the spectral bias in the light source,” Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist at the National Eye Institute, told The Guardian.

“Everyone has a very strong prior belief that shoelaces are white. So when your visual system sees the manipulated photograph, where the shoelaces are a weird turquoise, it then subtracts that color from the rest of the scene, restoring the canvas of the shoe to pink,” he added.

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