The Power of Perception


In February of 2015, a single image "broke the internet," sparking worldwide debates and creating division between friends and family members. Relationships were jeopardized and people judged for their difference of opinion. Which image could have possibly caused so much conflict and strife? A customer's photograph of a dress from the UK retailer Roman Originals.

Originally appeared on  Buzzfeed

Originally appeared on Buzzfeed

There were two camps in the Dress Debacle of 2015: black and blue vs. white and gold. The first camp sincerely believed that the dress was colored black and blue; the latter just as strongly believed that the dress was actually white and gold. There was next to no agreement and all kinds of people were divided by what they saw--or what they thought they saw.

The fact that two people with clear eyesight and sound minds could look at the same exact image and see two completely different sets of colors was mind-boggling. In the weeks after the picture's publication online, scientists wrote articles about how the image was an optical illusion and a perfect example of how the eyes and brain interpret color and light.  But many stubbornly stuck to their camps in spite of these explanations. Even after the storekeepers came forward to reveal that the dress was in fact black and blue, some, like myself, refused to believe it, holding fast to the belief that the original dress was indeed white and gold (#whiteandgoldforever #cantfoolme #conspiracytheory2015). 

Dressgate 2015 perfectly illustrates the wild differences in perception that people can have. How one person perceives an image, an experience, or an idea can differ so completely from how another person perceives it. That perception influences that person's perspectives, their opinions, and their actions going forward, and that perspective often in turn influences their perception of events.

So why is this important? Well, when working on a project with other people, it is crucial to note this potential for different perceptions. You and another person can look at the same image, listen to the same song, read the same sentence, and be left with very different impressions. At times it can feel like you're not even working on the same project. And working towards a common goal is only made more difficult when you don't realize that the goals you are both focused on are different or even diametrically opposed (see an example below).

But different perspectives and manners of perception can only become a problem if you don't acknowledge them. A person’s manner of perception informs how they act, respond, think, and create. It influences their next steps and their interactions with the work and with other artists. When working with a partner or colleague on a project, understanding what influences that person’s method of perception and their perspective can help you understand their positions or opinions on certain aspects of the project. So if you want to understand why a fellow artist or collaborator makes a certain choice, disagrees with your position, or focuses on one aspect of the project over another, then try to understand where they’re coming from.

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You can do that by getting to know the person and their background. To be cognizant of how they interpret the world and why. To ask why they dislike an element of the work and why they prefer another variation. To have honest and clear communication about your expectations and your own perspective. Doing so will help avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and frustration. Your collaborator's perception and perspective influence their choices and opinions, so it’s worth your time to try to understand the how and why behind them.

There's an important lesson to learn from the dress that was forever immortalized by the internet: perception matters; perspective matters. And understanding why they sometimes differ can help facilitate the creative process. Even if at the end of the day your perspectives don’t change, at least you’ll have made an attempt to understand why. Such a small step can be the key to successfully working together.

What did you think of Dressgate 2015 and which camp did you fall into? Leave a comment below and tell us what colors you see! In the meantime, happy collaborating as always!

Kemi Adegoroye