Divorce and Brain Tricks: What Color Is This Dress?

Dress color divorceA striped dress and a simple question, “What color is this dress?”  Some people see white and gold; others blue and black.  No matter which colors they see, people are adamant that only their perception is correct.  This exact kind of positioning happens in divorce too. 

Frequently one spouse “sees” a problem in only one way and finds it impossible to believe the other spouse could look at it completely differently.  Are these irreconcilable conflicts? Not at all.  They are the incredible human brain’s tricks.  Here is how to overcome them.

Perhaps nothing illustrates better that people can look at the same thing, see different images, and both be right than the famous “My Wife and My Mother in Law” cartoon by William Ely Hill.*  Look at the image to the left.  What do you see?  A beautiful young lady or an old woman?  If you can only see one or the other, here’s a clue:  the chin of the young lady is the nose of the old woman. 

“Color constancy” is one scientific explanation for why people see the dress colors they do.

Whether one is participating in a social media experiment or going through something as personal as a divorce, it is critical to recognize and expect that people are not going to see things the way we do.  Opening our minds to an understanding of how and why someone perceives something differently allows humans to outsmart their own brain’s initial impressions.

The next time you meet someone with perceptions diametrically opposed to yours, instead of defending your own position, first try asking them “What do you see?” If you still do not follow, then say, “Show me”.  That is what makes life interesting in social media and conflict resolution possible in divorce.

*“My Wife and My Mother in Law” by William Ely Hill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.