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This May Be Why You’re Seeing the Dress as White and Gold

Science explains an Internet sensation

The Internet officially broke on Thursday night thanks to a dress that had defied the classification of color. Is it white and gold or is it black and blue?

“I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” Jay Neitz, a color-vision researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Wired.

However, the actual physiology of your eye might come into play with how you perceive the dress. According to Neitz, an individual’s lens, which is part of the eyeball, changes over the course of one’s lifespan. Individuals are less sensitive to blue light when they are older. Which could explain why older netizens are seeing white and gold. But, in the absence of hard-core data relating to age and perceptions regarding the dress, this theory cannot be proved yet.

At the same time, the way the dress is captured on camera could also be playing a significant role in this debate. According to Science Daily, humans are blessed with something called color constancy, which means that while color should be easily identifiable whether you’re in bright or dull lighting, things can change if the lighting is colored.

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“The wavelength composition of the light reflected from an object changes considerably in different conditions of illumination. Nevertheless, the color of the object remains the same,” writes Science Daily.

So, because the photo is taken in lighting with a blue hue, it may be causing the blues in the dress to reflect a white color. And while the dress may in fact be blue and black, the lighting does, for some viewers, make it appear to be white and gold.

However, experts agree that the only individuals who can accurately identify “the dress” are those who see it in person.

“Anyone who has ever worked in color management knows that a digital image is subject to many variables, including screen brightness and contrast, color calibration and ICC profile, the type of screen material and it’s corresponding lighting method, as well as the ambient light present,” says Matthew Sexton, a web designer of nearly 10-years experience, who formerly worked in TIME’s international production department.

“If you’re viewing it on a screen … it’s both people!”

Read next: The Sports World Weighs In on the Colors of #TheDress

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