A new optical illusion asks whether a series of dots is purple or blue — but your answer might not be as reliable as you think

Business Insider | 7/6/2018 | Katie Spalding, IFL Science
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Participants shown 1,000 dots ranging in very blue to very purple were asked to classify the dot colors.

When scientists reduced the blue dots, participants subconsciously changed their definition of "blue" so it would include more of the dots they were being shown.

Move - Yanny - Laurel - Dress - Wardrobe

Move over Yanny and Laurel, put The Dress back in the wardrobe: there’s a new optical illusion in town – and it might just reveal something rather fundamental about humanity.

The question is simple: is this dot purple or blue? That is what a team of researchers asked in a new study published in the journal Science. We all know what colors are – what could go wrong?

Nothing - Participants - Advance - Color - Blindness

Well, at first, nothing. Participants – who had been vetted in advance for color blindness – were shown 1,000 dots ranging in color from "very blue" to "very purple". In the initial test, the researchers ensured that half the dots came from the "blue" part of the spectrum, and half were from the "purple" part, classified according to their RGB (Red, green, blue) values.

But scientists wouldn’t be scientists if they didn’t try to mess with our heads. So for some participants, the number of blue dots was reduced over time – from 50 percent of the first 200 dots down to a measly 6 percent of the last 650. But instead of reflecting this, the participants did something strange: they subconsciously changed their definition of "blue" so it would include more of the dots they were being shown.

Study - Scientists - Subjects

It gets stranger. In a second study, the scientists specifically told the subjects that the...
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