Tag Archives: colors

Do you see what I see?

Here’s a poser for you. I mean a mind-boggler, you one-track minds! It has been nagging me for over a couple decades now. I remember asking this to quite a few kids when I was in school and college, only to get the increasingly familiar you must be those crazy people mommy says to stay away from reaction. I don’t remember asking my parents, ever. Because if it’s something friends don’t know, there’s no way parents will. Don’t take my word for it, ask my kid. So I decided it’s time I put you through it.

Here it is. What color is this? And this? And for that matter this? It really is something that has me foxed. Now maybe the alecs who fancy a little poetry will say this is sad, this is angry and this is envious. But it should be a safe bet to assume that the rest of us mortals will unanimously say this is blue, this red, and this one is green. Because it’s been ingrained in our minds since we were kids that blue means this, red means this, and green means this. But the question is, do we both really see the same exact color? Is what I call blue the same as your perception of blue? How do I know you don’t see it as what I call beige instead? Of course you will call it blue; you have grown up calling that color you see blue. But perhaps what you’re actually calling blue appears beige to me. (Oh my God, I see it. That’s exactly the look I’d get back then; it’s so familiar!!)

Well, I’ve seen large color charts with intelligent statistics in science museums and other places. They often have information on color-blindness too. For instance, when people who are not color blind (NCB) see a certain color x, this is actually how people who are color blind (CB) perceive it. One question: HOW DO YOU KNOW? Are you color blind yourself? In that case, how do you know what the real color looks like? And if you aren’t, how would you know how the CB would perceive it? How can you nail it down to the precise shade in the spectrum? I’m not talking about the color-blindness tests here, where CBs see a different number than NCBs. That only establishes color-blindness, not what color a CB sees instead.

I’ve combed the internet, read extremely interesting articles on color perception and vision. Yes, they do a wonderful job of explaining how the brain perceives color; they all talk about spectral sensitivity and luminosity and other -ities in elaborate detail. But I still haven’t found an answer to this question. Or maybe it’s just my (lack of) perception.

If you have as much time on your hands as I do, here‘s something to keep you occupied. If you have even more time, here‘s another article I came across that caught my fancy.

I’m sure there are many folks out there who have asked this question. If you’re one of them, I hope you have an answer. But if for some reason you decide to write me off as a loony, please be nice and visit me with that homemade blueberry pie.