What Your Response to The Dress Says About You

Are you mad that it's blue?
Are you mad that it’s blue?

Well, I learned more about rods and cones this week than I’d planned to. But the most fascinating thing about #thedress controversy wasn’t just how wildly different our color perception is, but what the response to this bit of viral lunacy says about you.

Essentially, this is a litmus test of tolerance and perspective. And I believe you should ask anyone you plan to work with or sleep with what they thought of it. Not so much to determine their eyesight, but to find out how they react when their worldview is challenged or threatened. Which of the following sounds like you (and you probably have a combination of several)? Because I think I got your number.

1. “WTF is going on?” I’ll admit, I had a mild freak out when I found it on my Twitter feed. I happened to be alone, so there was no one to defuse that weird tension with, and so I laid there for a while wondering what it meant and if I should be really worried.

What it says about you: Your stress response may keep you safe, but it can be a hindrance to absorbing new info (or sleeping).  You translate new and conflicting information from a place of fear, and that can keep you from getting all the facts clear, causing you to make an emotional leap to the wrong conclusion. Yup. I do that.

2. “WTF is wrong with me?” This response stems from insecurity, a close cousin of fear, and assumes that you have a problem. You thought, My eyes are broken. Or, worse: I’m different from everyone else, and I’m flawed in some way. In my case, I started to wonder if I was crazy. I also wondered how long this had been going on and was I late to the game, which was FOMO-as-side-effect.

What it says about you: When something isn’t adding up right (“It’s white! Isn’t it?”), you tend to blame yourself, maybe a lot of the time. So you saw white/gold. So did a lot of people (about half, according to this piece in CNET.)

(Gotta run? Listen to this story on my channel on umano.)

3. “You’re all wrong.” This is great…when you’re right. The award for righteous goes to my sister Lori, who’s never wrong (ever, just ask her), and who like a champion fencer will get you into a corner and with one flick of the blade, skewer your argument at its weakest point. In this case, I was very glad we were in agreement (black/blue). Because in fact, she IS right (again); it doesn’t matter what you perceive the dress to be; the color of the dress is a fact.

What it says about you: As they say, do you want to be right, or do you want to be in a relationship? It’s hard for that person who’s always right, particularly if they’re belligerent about it, because if you’re so bent on proving everyone wrong, you can alienate and piss off other people (um, guilty). I was feeling righteous myself, but my own self-doubt ate a hole through the middle because my first response was WTF.

4. “This is fascinating!” If this sounds like you, then congratulations. You’re a balanced human being with a healthy sense of wonder and your stress response isn’t on a hair trigger like the rest of us. You saw this as an interesting opportunity to learn about how other people see things, even if you were bewildered, too.

What it says about you: Your life is a lot more interesting and fun. You’re less reactive and more open-minded, able to assess conflicting ideas without feeling emotionally vexed. You only risk pissing the people off around you who want you to be angrier and take a side already. Which, knowing you, makes you laugh.

5. “Stop talking about it!” You cannot understand why this is a big deal, and quite frankly, hate it. You wish people would talk about something else. This is the least interesting response of all. And I am, quite frankly, puzzled that you’re so aggravated by it.

What it says about you: You’re uncomfortable with controversy, feel out of your depth, or both, and attempt to divert attention away from it or you by calling it all “dumb” or “a waste of time.” But something that gets this much attention doesn’t get it by accident. Public attention is scarce and fleeting, and if something takes hold, there’s a reason.

And if you whine that this dress business is detracting from More Important Things like war, hunger, terrorism? It’s not. Internet memes are more than a diversion: They leave clues as to how and what people pay attention to, and shed light on how we comprehend conflicting perception. If we can learn something from that, the world could be a different place altogether.

(If you haven’t watched Jimmy Fallon’s take on it, well, you kinda have to.)

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