YANSS 200 – How a divisive photograph of a perceptually ambiguous dress led two researchers to build the nuclear bomb of cognitive science out of socks and Crocs

When facing a novel and uncertain situation, the brain secretly disambiguates the ambiguous without letting you know it was ever uncertain in the first place, leading people who disambiguate differently to seem iNsAnE.

This episode is about why we so often don’t understand why we disagree, which leads us to disagree even more, and we explore that through the science behind The Dress. We look into why some people see it as black and blue, others see it as white and gold, and how the scientific investigation of why that is led to the scientific investigation of socks and Crocs, and how the scientific investigation of socks and Crocs may be, as one researcher explains, the nuclear bomb of cognitive neuroscience.

Pascal Wallisch“How do people construct the subjective reality they inhabit?” That’s the question at the center of the work of Pascal Wallisch, who studies how human beings differ in the their interpretations of the objective truth. As part of that work, he has been the go-to scientist when it comes to making sense of The Dress, the Yanny/Laurel illusion, and several other viral phenomena on the internet. In 2017, he produced a study explaining exactly why some people saw the dress as one color, and others saw it as another. And in 2019, he produced another study replicating the conditions of the dress in the lab using socks and Crocs

Michael Karlovich is a cognitive scientist and vision researcher who explores “computational methods to create digital art, and to combine these novel methods with principles of visual-neuroscience and gestalt psychology to produce visual displays that ‘captures the brain’s attention,’ and further, produce positive impressions within a majority of viewers.” 

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Links and Sources

Download – iTunes – Stitcher – RSS – PatreonSoundcloud – OmnySpotify

Pascal Wallisch Website

Pascal Wallisch Twitter

Michael Karlovich’s Website

The Debate that Broke the Internet

The Drama that Divided the Planet

Exploring the Roots of Disagreement with Crocs and Socks

Illumination assumptions account for individual differences in the perceptual interpretation of a profoundly ambiguous stimulus in the color domain: “The Dress”

There are no red pixels in this created by Akiyoshi Kitaoka