Dressing Up the Spinning Cat

It’s probably safe to say that most of you will have been aware of, or perhaps even participated in, some form of discussion/debate/deliberation/divorce/dust-up (delete as applicable) over the now infamous two-tone dress that trended worldwide on social media, and in some cases, made national news headlines.

The source of all discussion was down to the dress’s original colour(s)

Is it white & gold, or blue & black?


There have since been innumerable articles written about the ‘science’ behind why people see different colours. Endless paragraphs about how light enters our eyes, how different wavelengths correspond to different colours, and how that stimulates neural activity relating to the visual cortex. It’s all very interesting, of course but then something happened that made me think of something else that had slipped my mind.

Rewind 12 months and I’m sitting at TestBash 3 in Brighton, watching Mark Tomlinson present a fascinating piece about insightful testing.  He quotes Donald Rumsfeld as an unlikely source of testing wisdom while teasing us with a sequence of optical illusions, culminating with the superbly divisive pièce de résistance – ‘the spinning cat’ (Clockwise or anti-clockwise?).

The real meat and potatoes of this talk for me was the information about the neuroscience behind it all as described by the paper “The Prepared Mind”. Essentially it’s to do with what we tend to call the ‘Eureka’ moment – left brain/right brain communications, relaxing your cortex, serendipitous connections, new neural networks coming to consciousness (I.e. solving problems, seeing new perspectives, gaining new insights) before you’re even aware of it. Captivating stuff.

How does this relate to ‘the dress’?

Well, I was very firmly of the opinion that it was in fact white & gold, but my wife could only see blue & black. It was only when I was quickly scrolling through some article to quote some scientific reference at the end, the image fleetingly passed my field of vision, but for the very first time the dress appeared to me as blue & black, not white & gold. When I scrolled back it had indeed reverted to white & gold, but on occasions since then when I’ve been relaxing my cortex and not staring directly at the dress, I’ve been able to get it to switch colours again, albeit very briefly.

So if Mark ever plans to give that talk again, perhaps he should consider having the spinning cat wearing that dress to really mess with your heads 🙂

Repeat after me, ‘relax the cortex’……..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: