That Exasperating Dress

Don’t worry. I’m not going to post a picture of it. Or even enter the debate about what color it is. If you’re anything like me, by late morning yesterday, you were ready to scream anytime you caught a glimpse of that picture (or one of its thousands of farcical spin-offs) or anytime someone mentioned a particular color combination.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m pretty sure that any search engine in the next couple days will be happy to show you a picture if you simply enter, “dress.” Fair warning – I’m not responsible for what happens. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll never be the same again.

I saw internet conversations go from confusion and curiosity into all-out rage wars. Even amongst my usually polite and educated friends. I witnessed screaming matches between middle-schoolers as they all waved their phones in others’ faces. And I’m sure that somewhere within the reach of this dress, words turned to fisticuffs over the debate.

From a scientific standpoint, I find the situation interesting. It speaks to the importance of lighting in how we see images and it reveals differences in our visual processing.

From a psychological standpoint, I find the situation fascinating. Look at how threatened people become when their truth is called into question.

Even when it’s about nothing of consequence.

I spent the day avoiding the dress and seeking out the responses. I soon noticed people fell into two camps: they either quickly began to question themselves and their own perceptions or they vehemently denied that the opposing view had any merit and insisted that their perception was the correct one (often gathering “evidence” to support their claim). And to be fair, there was a third group. Most definitely in the minority, and not nearly as verbose as the others, there were a few people I encountered that truly seemed not to care one way or another.

That first group is comprised of the group-thinkers. They are aware and receptive to the ideas of others. They respond with empathy and are willing to reconsider their own viewpoints if evidence points to the contrary. Taken too far, and these are the martyrs and enablers that will subjugate themselves at the will of another.

The second group are the game-changers. They are stubborn and can effectively communicate and enforce an idea. These are the people that are not afraid to stand alone as long as they stand for what they believe in. And sometimes, as in the case with every new invention or scientific theory, they’re right. Yet if this trait gets out of control, these are the ones that turn into bullies or narcissists, unconcerned about others and unwilling to reflect upon their own beliefs.

And that third group? They’re just going to quietly do their own thing no matter what scuffle the others engage in.

It’s just a dress. And an ugly one at that.

But often the smallest things contain the biggest truths.

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