The Internet loves a good optical illusion, especially if it’s slightly controversial. Remember when “the dress” broke the Internet in February 2015?  A photo of a nondescript striped dress on Tumblr went viral because it asked a simple question that baffled brains around the world: Is the dress blue and black or white and gold?

Today we’ve got a new conundrum to crack and it’s all about footwear. A woman in the UK posted a photo of a sneaker in a Facebook group insisting that the shoe was pink and white. The debate started because someone had complimented the shoe for its blue hue.  Wait a minute? Is the shoe pink and white or teal and gray?

Of course, comments and opinions started swirling, and ‘the shoe’ debate AKA #shoegate took off. In response, some Facebook users posted photos of different apparel in shades of pink and white to prove a point. How in the world can you look at these objects and see teal and gray?

When the shoe debate made the local news, the anchors were laughing on-air, because they were unable to agree on the color of the sneaker.  One of them exclaimed, “Why do I see it like this…is my brain broken?”

As we explained previously about the dress illusion, when you look at the photo of the shoe, your brain is actually interpreting the background lighting in the photo. If your brain thinks the shoe is more illuminated, you see it as pink. If your brain thinks it’s more reflective (it’s in shadows), then the shoe appears to be teal.

It’s not really the shoe, but the strange lighting that made this an optical illusion. That’s the beauty of brain benders and mind games. What you believe to be real is an image your brain concocts depending on your own personal assumptions. When your brain fills in the blanks for you, sometimes it comes up with the wrong answer.

Another great example of the games lighting plays with your mind can be traced back to one of the four colors being debated—gray. For years, gray has been an extremely popular color for home décor. But beware of gray paint because it’s a chameleon when it comes to color.

Depending on the lighting, you can paint a room gray and it will suddenly morph into lavender.  Check out the search term “gray walls look purple” and you’ll see articles about it. Gray notoriously looks blue and green too.  In order to make gray look gray again, you have to add the right colors to the equation. Yellow undertones will make it look purple and blue undertones will make it look gray.

In fact, one of the easiest ways to fix a problematic gray is to use the correct lighting. A light bulb color like soft white can make gray look purple, because the light it gives off is actually a yellowish hue on the color scale. In contrast, bright white bulbs are on the opposite side of the color scale, so the light is whiter, like natural daylight.  Bright white will help your eyes and your brain see gray, not purple.

Now let’s get back to the shoe illusion…

Are your eyes seeing clearly or being duped by bad lighting?

When it comes to #ShoeGate, what color is the sneaker? Let us know in the comments section on the Clear Eyes Facebook page.

Photo: Nicole Coulthard