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News & Insight

These Strawberries Are Not Red, There Is No Red In This Photo. Your Brain Is Wrong

By Kishore Sawh on March 1st 2017

When it comes to virality, ‘cash me ousside’ has got little to nothing on The Dress. You know the one, the one that is so obviously white and gold, and w… or was it blue and black? The one that set the internet alight and sparked conversations for weeks especially when viewers who saw it one way went back later only to see it had changed colors.

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Neetzan Zimmerman, who was Gawkers Unofficial Viral Editor and then Director of Audience &Strategy at The Hill, called the dress ‘Viral Singularity’ – and it was. It played on the mind through the eyes and apparently at one point was responsible for half the traffic on Buzzfeed. Fathom that, if you can. Well, almost 2 years to the day The Dress was released, the same mind parlor trick that made the dress toy with you is at work again in another image, but this time a bit geekier. Check out the image below:

This image of strawberries, believe it or not, has absolutely no red pixels, but thanks to a concept called Color Constancy we see red anyway.

The image was created by a one Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a Professor of Psychology at Ritsumeikan University in Japan –and curator of a twitter feed your mind could be forever lost in– and Bevil Conway of the National Eye Institute spoke to Motherboard about it and explained what was going on:

In this picture, someone has very cleverly manipulated the image so that the objects you’re looking at are reflecting what would otherwise be achromatic or grayscale, but the light source that your brain interprets to be on the scene has got this blueish component. You brain says, ‘the light source that I’m viewing these strawberries under has some blue component to it, so I’m going to subtract that automatically from every pixel.’ And when you take grey pixels and subtract out this blue bias, you end up with red.

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If you aren’t buying it, and are more of a ‘trust your senses’ type, bring it into a photo editor like Capture One or Photoshop and sample all round and you’ll find that, in fact, it’s all just shades of grey, with a little teal thrown in.

What do you see?

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Lotus Buccola

    I could actually tell it was grayscale unless I viewed the whole image.  It was then my brain shifted it to red.  Makes total sense.  However, that dress is still White and Gold. 

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  2. Patrick Chase

    This was demonstrated in Edwin Land and John McCann’s famous “red and white study” all the way back in 1959, and formalized in McCann’s initial “Retinex” papers in 1971.

    It blows my mind that this is still driving clicks and pageviews in 2016.

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