Crocs & Socks: Analyzing the Role of Experience in Perception by Way of Visual Illusions
Crocs, often thought of as the ultimate fashion no-no, have recently become a point of public discussion, thanks to the visual illusion created by CDS Clinical Faculty Pascal Wallisch and his collaborator Michael Karlovich in their project “Disagreeing about Crocs and socks: Creating profoundly ambiguous color displays”.
The illusion, featured in a video, initially displays two pairs of legs, both wearing white socks, but one garbed in gray Crocs, the other in pink. A moment later, it shows another pair in what appears to be gray Crocs and green socks, prompting viewers to ask themselves what color the Crocs actually are. It then presents a selection of four different Crocs in four different colors: pink, green, brown, and gray. Finally, it is revealed that the Crocs in the initial scene were, in fact, pink, not gray. The team explains that under green lighting, pink objects can appear gray and white objects appear green. However, the reason opinions can vary is due to how prior experience with certain colors can influence current perception, coloring an individual’s interpretation. The final clip features the image of a dress that stirred up similar controversy in 2015.
“This illusion nicely distinguishes people who take what they see at face value — in this case by perceiving the crocs as gray — from those who are able to see past appearances and able to discern the true color of the crocs — pink in this case — by taking context into account,” says Pascal.
Though “Disagreeing about Crocs and socks” was published in August 2019, the illusion has recently been getting a flurry of media attention, having been covered in the New York Post, U.S. Sun, and Scottish Sun just this past April. The illusion was also a 2021 finalist in the Neural Correlate Society’s Best Illusion of the Year contest.
Pascal and Michael previously teamed up on a similar project, “Scintillating Starbursts: Concentric Star Polygons Induce Illusory Ray Patterns”, which we covered on the blog last year.
For information about Pascal’s research, please visit Fox Lab NYU.
By Ashley C. McDonald