4 Simple Concepts Proving that We All See Things Differently

Perception: Does Everyone See The Same Thing?

In the TED talk found here, Beau Lotto points out that the way we see color is essentially all perception. His optical illusions, and the ones you will find below, illustrate just how suggestive our sight is. So this begs the question: Do we all see things the same? The simple answer is no, we don’t. Based on our physicality, our literal location, and other mitigating factors we all see things differently. Color is the easier way to prove this concept. What follows is a short list, from Psyh2Go, on the use of perception and how it changes what we see.

1. The reality of color

Mazviita Chirimuuta puts it best in her article The Reality of Color is Perception when she explains literally just that, color is perception. Is color real or not real? Is it physical or psychological? These questions, explained by Chirimuuta, have been posed by and argued amongst philosophers for decades. The answer that she gives is that color is a little bit of both. She states that color is a perceptual process, one between a physical object and how we perceive it on a psychological plane.

2. “The Dress”

A little over two years ago the dress pictured above nearly broke the internet. After 48 hours, one fateful tweet left the world turned on its head. The question asked was if the dress was white and gold or black and blue. The answer wasn’t so, simple as over 4.4 million tweets cared that witness. People were feuding with friends and family as some saw it as white/gold and others saw it as blue/black. But what were the actual colors of the dress that had everyone talking and why was everyone seeing it in different ways? TIME did an article a year later chronically the phenomenon and the social media buzz that it created. The dress, in reality, was blue and black. The only reason why some saw it as anything other than those colors was because of a trick of the light. This interesting event further proves that color is subjective.

3. Our brains fill in the blanks 

Take thirty seconds and look directly at the white “X” within the flag. Make sure that you look at nothing else, just focus on that “X.” When the thirty seconds are up, look at the black “X” in the white box and blink rapidly. Did you see an image of an American flag in its correct color pattern? Beau Lotto, from the TED talk above, explains this as our brains understating what should be there, and making it that way. The top flag is a negative image of what the flag should actually look like. When our brains interpret this visual sensory input it burns the proper image into our brains. Then when we blink we see the opposite of what was in the image above because that it what our brains expect to be there. We don’t even have to be familiar with the American flag for our brains to be able to correct what it perceives to be improper colors.

4. Light and dark

The perception of color is actually our brain’s perception of light. Colors are caused by light reflected off of objects. Black is the absorption of the entire light spectrum whereas white is the reflection of the entire spectrum. The image above illustrates how a suggested shadow can change how our brains perceive the colors of two tiles. Tile “A” and tile “B” are the exact same color but our brains aren’t seeing it that way. The light we see in the image changes how we believe the tiles to look. The same can be said if we were to place a red light bulb over a white couch. The couch doesn’t technically change physical color, but psychologically we perceive it that way.

The way we see the world changes how we interact with it. The data we receive isn’t the same data that someone even directly beside us perceives. My “blue” may not be your “blue” and your “green” might not be my “green.” Perception and color go hand in had, each affecting the other. What we see isn’t “wrong”, we just have a different vantage point than someone else.

Other reading from Psych2Go:

Cosmetics Role in Perception of Our Attractivty 



Chirimuuta, Mazviita. “The Reality of Color Is Perception.” Nautilus, NautilusThink Inc, 23 July 2015, nautil.us/issue/26/color/the-reality-of-color-is-perception. Retrieved December 5, 2017

McCluskey, Megan. “’The Dress’ Broke the Internet 1 Year Ago Today.” Time, Time, 26 Feb. 2016, time.com/4238688/the-dress-1-year-anniversary-white-gold-blue-black/. Retrieved December 5, 2017

“How Do We See Color?” Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Oct. 2004, www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/nlpip/lightinganswers/lightsources/seeColor.asp. Retrieved December 5, 2017


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