My wife Catherine and I recently attended a commencement speech at a High School Graduation where we listened as a speaker traveled through an amazing thought jabbing perception. Do we see differences between the sunrise and the sunset? Is there a difference? This really got me wondering – is this the same as a morning person versus a night person, a glass half full as opposed to a glass half empty person? Well, let’s take a look, first some research. If we had just awoken from a coma and were to venture outside and see the sunset, would we actually realize that this was a sunset or would we think it was a sunrise? Your answer may really be interesting, especially after reading what I have found.

Being somewhat of a photo buff I thought “Well, this will be easy. I will take pictures of sunsets and also of sunrises and then I will ask 10 people to identify which is which.” Amazingly, most were wrong and half of those asked could not tell whether the photo was a sunrise or a sunset. I ventured off into Google to look at the science and much to my surprise after taking the sunset and sunrise and all the elements such as the amount of light, positioning, how the sun works, and most other scientific things I could possibly think of, it appears there is no difference. [i Now with that said why do most people see them differently?  Let’s dive into another angle and look at various reasons that may account for the difference. Before looking at the human aspects it is important to note that some atmospheric elements could play a part in this depending on where you are due to particles in the air such as smog or moisture.  This can and will alter the colors we see in the sky. For example, if there is smog in the air it can cause a slew of different reddish-type appearances in the horizon. [ii] Yet an actual sunset will still appear exactly the same as a sunrise. So why do we all see these differently? Some experts have noted that while looking at a sunset our eyes are adjusting from light to dusk which is different from the sunrise where we go from dark to light.  As our pupils transition one way or the other they are constricting or dilating.  With more and more light appearing during the sunrise, we will see brighter and more intense lighting as our eyes adjust quicker to this scenario allowing one to visually gain a more intense, sharper, and crisper image. [iii] This has been challenged by adjusting a person’s light prior to focusing on the sunrise and limiting the time one spends viewing, and yet again there is no difference.

This brings me to my personal findings of what I call, “One’s perception and condition!” As we have noted in the raw sense and scientific sense people find it hard to determine the difference between sunrise and sunset, yet in their true setting almost everyone views them differently. This applies to how we perceive everyday situations as well.  It’s amazing how so many things about us personally can either strengthen or weaken our own perception of everyday situations. I say where you are in the way you think, the way you analyze, your personality, your outlook, your mood, your health, your surroundings, and yes even your hunger level all can and will play a part in the way you see either a “sunset and or a sunrise.” Yet I feel most of us give little thought to any of these things before we make judgement calls on any given situation – how we perceive or believe things are or appear to be a certain way and find ourselves more aligned one way or the other because that’s “just how it is.”  Definitely something to think about.

[i], Life Science Do Sunrises Look Different from Sunsets? by Natalie Wolchover July 10, 2012.

[ii], “The Difference Between Sunrise and Sunset” September 23, 2019 by The Natural Navigator.

[iii] why_do_sunrises_and_sunsets_look_slightly/, Reddit Blog, thread date unknown.

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