A few months ago, a picture of a dress sparked a huge debate from sea to shining sea! Some people saw a blue dress with black lace, while others, looking at the very same picture, argued that the dress was white with gold lace.

One website took a poll asking readers to indicate which color the dress appeared to them, and they received 28 million responses, with white and gold getting the most votes. According to the store where the dress was originally purchased, the dress is blue and black.

Scientists have explained that the retina, a layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye, contains millions of light-detecting cells. Cones are light-detecting cells that sense colors, like red, blue, and green. Scientists believe that a person with more blue-detecting cones may see the color blue better than the person who has less blue-detecting cones. Interestingly, our brains may also adjust how we perceive the colors based on the sensitivity of our eyes to different color hues, like blue or yellow, that make up the background light illuminating the dress.

The dress, which sold for $77 in the Birmingham, England dress shop, sold a mind-boggling 300 dresses online in just half an hour. An Internet sensation of epic proportions because we don’t quite understand how our eyes perceive color, or for another reason?

I believe that the dress phenomenon provides an excellent exposition of human behavior. Even when provided with evidence that the dress is indeed blue and black, reasonable human beings continue to insist that it is white and gold. Why? Because that’s the color they see with their own eyes. “Seeing is believing” at it’s finest. Our sense of reality, what we see, is being challenged in a very demonstrable way. Even more perplexing for some who have viewed the dress as white and gold, returning to view the same photo later and see the dress as blue and black. In the Mandt system we stress the importance of checking our perceptions with supporting facts and corroborating evidence.

The dress phenomenon causes us to ask the bigger question, “Can we trust our brain? Is what we perceive to be true actually true?” Is seeing really the key to believing? I don’t believe that I must see things in order to believe in them. I do, however, believe that we’ve been given senses to help us, and seeing is one of the most helpful senses we have. I also enjoy having the ability to taste, touch, smell, and hear. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that “Seeing is seeing, and believing is believing.” We’ve been given two words, with two distinct meanings. Sometimes, a belief based on something that we’ve seen will be proven false, like my seeing the dress as white and gold. Sometimes, I’ll believe something that I’ve seen, and may never have that perception challenged. That doesn’t mean that my belief is right or wrong. And of course, some beliefs I’ll continue to believe without ever having evidence by sight that it is true. That’s when I’ll trust the eyes of my heart.

Randel Goad – Mandt Faculty Supervisor