I hear Laurel.
Back in 2015, the ugly dress was black and blue. Wrong, it was white and gold.
Wait what? How in the heck can two people looking at the exact same picture, at the exact same time see completely different shades of color? Oh, it’s just the lighting, or it depends on the device you are looking at.
What if I told you that your brain is deciding whether or not you see black and blue or white and gold? You have absolutely no say in what colors you’re gonna see, it is all up to your physiological make-up and the unique way your brain functions.
“The photoreceptors [in our eyes] convert light rays into nerve signals, which are then processed by nerve cells in the inner retina, sent to the brain, and translated as images,” wrote Dina Spector of Business Insider.
Okay, well what about the Laurel thing? That’s gotta be the volume levels or hearing it with earphones rather than through a speaker.
You guessed it… wrong.
“It really comes down to how our brains pick up on and interpret these [high and low] frequencies,” said Rory Turnbull in Jen Kirby’s article for Vox.
This isn’t a magic trick. This isn’t a con-artist’s act. It is simply the way our brain perceives the image or deciphers the word.
Does this work in other fields?
“It’s not just one size fits all.”
It’s really amazing that we can even agree on anything when we can’t necessarily control how our brain puts together our world.
English teacher Sally Stockhausen believes that there is more to an issue than we see at the surface.
“An issue isn’t usually just cut and dry, black and white and that’s because of the people,” said Stockhausen. “There are just so many different needs and people see things from different perspectives.”
Every view or outlook on a specific issue is unique to each individual. Yes, it could be very similar, but we all produce different thoughts and opinions that add to our entire perspective. This makes mutual agreement nearly impossible. Stockhausen agrees that not every person is able to adapt to a certain view.
“It makes things more complex because it’s not just one size fits all,” said Stockhausen.
Maybe it is just the innocence of seeing differently. But you also have to take into account the
argumentative instincts of people when an issue arises.
“Any time you have yelling, you’re not having a conversation.”
People are quick to get defensive or aggressive at the fact that they are 100% certain they hear “yanny”– how could anyone hear anything different? If you hear “laurel” you’re crazy or stupid.
This is just a fun example of how our brains actually receive and translate information. But if you think about it in a broader sense, the realization is that this defensiveness and aggressiveness from one’s lack of understanding is often applied to bigger and more real situations in our world. Every issue from the color of a dress to gun control is dependent, to some degree, on your worldview. This of course leads to arguments rather than discussions. English teacher Jeff Lund emphasized that the privilege of freedom we get as Americans can be considered a contributor to the lack of discussion and the plethora of arguments.
“We all have the freedom to believe what we want to believe and how we want to believe so because of that, everybody has a voice–but with that voice comes a voice of opposition,” said Lund. “In other countries, the voice of opposition is silenced or censored and nobody can have that voice. So the unfortunate byproduct of freedom is that we have a lot of arguments and anger based on how we express our ideas.”
The dynamic of a conversation speaks volumes when it comes to separating anger and passion. Lund said he believes it differentiates a respectful dialogue from a full blown verbal attack match.
“Any time you have yelling, you’re not having a conversation. If you’re yelling, you’re not listening because it’s emotion, its not logic or reason.”
Stockhausen looked at the issue from a perspective of vulnerability rather than emotion.
“If its an argument, you don’t have to go into that unsafe area within yourself that makes you question your beliefs–you can just stick with your argument and fight for it,” said Stockhausen.
“Whereas if it is a discussion, I think that makes people be more vulnerable and they can’t just hide behind anger.”
“We safeguard our feelings from hurt and our opinions from challenge.”
So where does this anger stem from? Why do people take it so personally when they are disagreed with? Stockhausen believes it is a defense mechanism for most people.
“Taking it personally is a way for people to put these guards around them so they don’t have to think deeper,” said Stockhausen. “I think that’s scary for people to question the way they were raised or question their culture.”
New York Times columnist Bret Stephens agrees with Stockhausen in his article “The Dying Art of Disagreement”.
“We safeguard our feelings from hurt and our opinions from challenge. It is our ‘safe space,’” wrote Stephens.
By expressing your personal opinions, you are putting yourself out there. But to realize there are other opinions out there may cause some doubts in your own beliefs. If you are to even glance at the other side, these doubts can become inevitable. That’s why people stay on their side of the road and keep their focus on the specific opinion they have come to believe.
“Most people aren’t willing to do it because it’s not a safe feeling,” said Stockhausen. “They would rather just keep the wall there and remain in their own beliefs.”
“Intelligent disagreement is the lifeblood of any thriving society.”
Here’s an oversimplified but unasked question: why do we disagree in the first place? As Stephens wrote, “Intelligent disagreement is the lifeblood of any thriving society.”
But why is that? Why do we have such strong opposing opinions on every little thing in our lives?
“Part of it is innate, part of it is how people are raised, their experiences, and what they are taught–that kind of exposure,” said Lund.
We all grow up with different morals, different values, and overall different lifestyles. Alike Lund, Stockhausen believes our social and family circumstances have a say in our controversial habits and some tend to alter our outlooks on certain issues.
“People come to these issues with completely different backgrounds,” said Stockhausen. “Whether its culturally, religiously, (etc.) all those different things make everything more complicated because we see them through different lenses.
But Stockhausen also made it apparent that in some cases, people just aren’t willing to understand a different perspective.
“Sometimes people just aren’t willing to compromise and see things through other people’s perspectives because they are so stuck in their own,” said Stockhausen.
But maybe our disputes are more than just a difference of opinion or seperate views on life. Maybe they exist to better us in ways we choose to not comprehend? Stephens expressed that whether we like it or not, there is a purpose to the madness of our opinions.
“To say, I disagree… defines our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”
“We refuse to try to see things as they might, or find some middle ground.”
Many people claim that they can see both versions of the dress or hear both ‘yanny’ and ‘laurel’. But is it possible to understand both sides of an issue? Social Studies teacher Leigh Woodward believes this is a highly unlikely feat for the majority of people.
“We just don’t take the time to hear both sides,” said Woodward. “And to make things worse, it’s gotten so popular to degrade the other side with humor and that kind of stuff.”
Although many are susceptible to degrade and disrespect the opposing opinion, Lund believes that a lot of those people are just missing the bigger picture when it comes to certain issues. This, he said, results in taking a certain side and not even peeking at another.
“Some people don’t have a bigger understanding about how everything works,” said Lund. “So because they only have a limited amount of information to combat it, it’s kinda that strike first instinct–taking one sole side.”
The instinct Lund discusses is another defensive trait that we all seem to possess as certain disagreements are brought to light. When we go into this defensive mode, it’s often from the safety of our own side of the border. Stephens believes the lack of effort in understanding both sides is a reason for the harmfulness of arguments, but also a product of choosing to only comprehend our own defense strikes from our safe place of seclusion.
“…what makes our disagreements so toxic is that we refuse to try to see things as they might, or find some middle ground,” wrote Stephens. “Instead, we fight each other from the safe distance of our separate islands of ideology and identity and listen intently to echoes of ourselves.”
“We all see things a different way… and that’s okay”
So is the dress or the word that stupid? Is it just a harmless, fun trick that is just for our entertainment? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a highly oversimplified representation of how we all see the same world, but through different perspectives. Lund agreed.
“It’s an interesting glimpse into the uncontrollable aspect of the way our brains put the world together and why certain things make sense to us,” said Lund.
With so many different contributors making up our worldview, one would think that people with similar circumstances would have similar perspectives. But Woodward emphasized that we are all unique, and that’s alright.
“We all see things a different way, and it comes from both nature and nurture,” said Woodward. “We are all unique individuals that can look at the same thing and see differently and that’s okay.”
The hard part is actually accepting that everyone has a different view than you do. Just as our brain influences what we hear or don’t hear, what we see or don’t see; our outside sources influence our thoughts, opinions, decisions, and understanding of the world. Our outlooks on life are what makes us, us. So the closer we get to accepting, the closer we get to understanding.
By the way, today I heard yanny.