Description: Here is a very simple and complex question. Do you see red like I see red? Simple, right? Look at the picture below. The garment and the umbrella are red right? So, what is complicated? Well, yes, we seem to use the same label for our sensory experiences when we see things like the robes and the umbrella in the picture but are we really experiencing “red” the same way? Now that is sounding more like a philosophical question. However, perhaps, neuroscience research into the brain function can save us from the philosophical slippery slopes of questions like what is red anyway? If you had access to the sophisticated brain imaging/scanning systems available today what might you try and do in order to address the “simple” question of whether your red is the same as my red? Think about that for a moment and then read through the article oinked below to see what researchers who really do have access to those serious scanning tools have approached this question.
Source: Do you see red like I see red? Bevil R. Conway and Danny Garside, The Conversation.
Date: February 5, 2021
So, colors are not just labels and they are not just tags that help us identify objects. When under a yellow light (so that all colors are different) people can still identify strawberries but they no longer find them appetizing. Add to this the fact that older people bring their own “yellow” visual filters to day-to-day life with the yellowing of their cornea’s with age which effects how they perceive colors like green. Diving into the brain a bit deeper, research suggests that it may be possible to identify what a person is “seeing” without asking them and to have that generalize across reading other people’s brain responses to a color. So, while it takes a lot of work, and we are not there yet, it may be that neuroscience research looking into our brains will show us that “color IS a fact we can agree on.” (Linked article).
Questions for Discussion:
- How could you know if you and your friend are seeing the same thing (experiencing the same color sensations) when you are both looking at the same red apple?
- What does brain scanning research allow us to add to your consideration of the previous question?
- So, what ARE colors and what do they do for use (what do we use them for)?
References (Read Further):
Lafer-Sousa, R., Hermann, K. L., & Conway, B. R. (2015). Striking individual differences in color perception uncovered by ‘the dress’ photograph. Current Biology, 25(13), R545-R546. Link
Thierry, G., Athanasopoulos, P., Wiggett, A., Dering, B., & Kuipers, J. R. (2009). Unconscious effects of language-specific terminology on preattentive color perception. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(11), 4567-4570. Link
Lotto, R. B., & Purves, D. (2002). The empirical basis of color perception. Consciousness and Cognition, 11(4), 609-629. Link
Brown, A. M., Lindsey, D. T., & Guckes, K. M. (2011). Color names, color categories, and color-cued visual search: Sometimes, color perception is not categorical. Journal of vision, 11(12), 2-2. Link
Rosenthal, I., Ratnasingam, S., Haile, T., Eastman, S., Fuller-Deets, J., & Conway, B. R. (2018). Color statistics of objects, and color tuning of object cortex in macaque monkey. Journal of vision, 18(11), 1-1. Link
Gibson, Ted and Conway, Bevil R. (2017) Languages don’t all have the same number of terms for colors – scientists have a new theory why, The Conversation. Link
Hasantash, M., Lafer-Sousa, R., Afraz, A., & Conway, B. R. (2019). Paradoxical impact of memory on color appearance of faces. Nature communications, 10(1), 1-10. Link
Henderson, A. J., Lasselin, J., Lekander, M., Olsson, M. J., Powis, S. J., Axelsson, J., & Perrett, D. I. (2017). Skin colour changes during experimentally-induced sickness. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 60, 312-318. Link
Lafer-Sousa, R., & Conway, B. R. (2017). # TheDress: categorical perception of an ambiguous color image. Journal of Vision, 17(12), 25-25. Link
Hatfield, G. (2003). Objectivity and subjectivity revisited: Color as a psychobiological property. Colour perception: Mind and the physical world, 187-202. Link