Researcher to illuminate the science behind 'The Dress'

A University of Aberdeen researcher will shed some light on how past experience can influence how we see what we see and will describe how this determines which side of 'The Dress' debate you are on for the launch of British Science Week in Aberdeen.

‘The Dress’ describes a recent (March 2015) social media phenomenon that divided viewers into two distinct camps – those who perceived the dress in the picture to be black and blue and those who saw it as cream and gold.  Dr Jasna Martinovic, Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology has been conducting research on how the brain guides vision and how people see the colour in the dress differently.  Dr Martinovic has applied her research to explain the science behind The Dress and will describe it in the ‘Bring Your Own Brain’ event in Aberdeen from 6pm-8pm on Friday March, 13.

Dr Martinovic explains: “In ‘The Dress’ there is no clear information about what the illuminant is so we draw on past experience to interpret it – in this case as blue and black in daylight or white and gold in dim or bluish light.  People are different in their interpretations, while some assume a blue light, others do not assume anything about the illuminant.

In the Bring Your Own Brain Event, I will present an interactive and informal talk where I will discuss ‘The Dress’, and describe how we all draw on previous experience to make sense of what we see.”

Along with Dr Martinovic, fellow researchers at the Bring Your Own Brain event will illuminate how the brain senses light in the environment, but also how light lets us understand how the brain works.  Dr Perry Barrett will reveal how animals match their behaviour to the season by sensing the long daylight hours of summer and short days of winter.  Kevin Mackenzie will describe how microscopes work to reveal the structure and function of a world we never normally see and Dr Ben Tatler will discuss how our eyes can be deceived and that believing isn’t necessarily seeing.  This event is free to the public and is held at the Suttie Centre, Foresterhill Health Campus, Aberdeen.

British Science Week is a UK-wide celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths running from March 13-22. The week will culminate with Discovery Day at Satrosphere Science Centre on Saturday March 21, with activities including the chance to build Lego robots, learn more about the science of superheroes, and make a 3D selfie.

Dr Heather Doran of the University's Public Engagement with Research Unit said: “This year’s British Science Week in Aberdeen is fantastic, with a diverse range of events designed to engage both adults and children with topics from across the scientific spectrum.

“From outdoor events exploring the phenomena of the natural world, to talks investigating our fascinating brains, the programme promises to deliver an array of scintillating science.”

In addition to the above events there are even more informal discussions on current hot-topics in science and a packed schools programme taking place across the week.

British Science Week comprises a programme of events including talks, workshops and hands-on activities held across Aberdeen City and Shire and supported by The University of Aberdeen. Schools activities are kindly supported by BP.

More information about British Science Week as well as a full programme of events can be found at