PetaPixel

Do People Always See the Same Things When They Look At Colors?

Update: It looks like the video was taken down by the uploader. Sorry guys.


Color is simply how our brains respond to different wavelengths of light, and wavelengths outside the spectrum of visible light are invisible and colorless to us simply because our eyes can’t detect them. Since colors are created in our brains, what if we all see colors differently from one another? BBC created a fascinating program called “Do You See What I See?” that explores this question, and the findings are pretty startling.

For example, examine the two rings of squares below. Each ring has one square that’s a different color than the rest. See if you can detect the square that’s different in the left ring:

In the English language (and most languages), there are distinct words for “green” and “blue. Therefore, it’s very easy for most people to detect the blue square in the right ring, but difficult to detect the slightly different green square in the left one.

However, when scientists visited a tribe in northern Namibia that has a completely different way of grouping and naming colors, they found that the exact opposite was true — the tribe members picked out the slightly different green square easily, while struggling to see the blue one.

Furthermore, researchers are discovering that there are many other factors that influence the way people perceive colors, including memories, moods, and feelings.

It’s interesting to think that different people looking at the same photograph may “see” the same wavelengths but perceive different colors.

(via Boing Boing)


 
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  • http://twitter.com/perrystallings Perry Stallings

    So which one is different on the left?

  • http://twitter.com/littledavee David Williams

    The square at ’10 o’clock’ is slighty different. I think….

  • http://twitter.com/littledavee David Williams

    The square at ’10 o’clock’ is slighty different. I think….

  • Ed

    The same position as in the right

  • http://www.facebook.com/samueljerichow Samuel Jerichow

    Wow interesting. Especially the part about the namibian tribe. On the one hand you can say, how could they possible oversee the cyan (!) square. On the other hand, who sais, color receptors are all the same around the world?
    In our society all is based upon verbal agreement. If we can really see the same things is hard to prove. Some people get along really well until they have to pass a test and realize, they can see less than other people.

    As for the test above, they should have placed the slightly different green elsewhere, the right circle is influencing the left one too strong.

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    The odd is in the same position on both sides :)

  • Anonymous

    I found this truly amazing!! The human brain is so complex!!!

    http://www.tomaslost.com

  • Matt

    I think about this concept literally all the time!

  • Matt

    I think about this concept literally all the time!

  • Asdf

    “In our society all is based upon verbal agreement.”  You missed the point entirely.

  • Asdf

    “In our society all is based upon verbal agreement.”  You missed the point entirely.

  • Asdf

    “In our society all is based upon verbal agreement.”  You missed the point entirely.

  • Bob

    I don’t believe this for a second.

  • Bob

    I don’t believe this for a second.

  • http://www.flickr.com/avaviel Avaviel
  • http://www.flickr.com/avaviel Avaviel
  • Thomas

    I wondered about this once but then realized we all must be seeing the same colors, besides colorblind people. How? Color schemes. Nobody walks into a house decorated by a normal person and is repulsed by the jarring combination of two or more colors that they think do not go together but the home owner does.

  • Thomas

    I wondered about this once but then realized we all must be seeing the same colors, besides colorblind people. How? Color schemes. Nobody walks into a house decorated by a normal person and is repulsed by the jarring combination of two or more colors that they think do not go together but the home owner does.

  • http://www.flickr.com/avaviel Avaviel

    But it can be different by shades, color schemes are fairly much complex cool vs warm colors.

    This of it this way: You can shift the color balance of a color scheme, and the colors are still related in the same way. You’re also not taking into account the people who ‘for some reason’ just don’t like some color combinations. Could it be because for one person, orange is truly bright and beautiful and for someone else it’s shifted ever so slightly to red so they don’t like it?

  • LeGrisbi

    took me a while but the square that matches the position of the blue has a bit more yellow in it

  • LeGrisbi

    took me a while but the square that matches the position of the blue has a bit more yellow in it

  • Jim MacDougall

    Even after being told, I still can’t discern a different colour in the “odd” one in the left circle.  To me, they’re identical.

  • Anonymous

    Hi – can you tell me what the 11 colours are – thank you .. Hilary

  • GrammarlessLinguist

    The book “Through the Language Glass” is an interesting linguistics book about this very topic.  Linguists have known about this for a while

  • GrammarlessLinguist

    The book “Through the Language Glass” is an interesting linguistics book about this very topic.  Linguists have known about this for a while

  • Lgsoltek

    I think this is what Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is about. Linguists have long known about this.

  • http://natanael.posterous.com/ Natanael L

    Sending the picture to my phone by Bluetooth, I think it has better “color accuracy” than my laptop screen. If there’s a difference that I can detect, I will when looking it on there.
    *looking*
    Nope. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s a JPG, the difference have probably been destroyed by the compression. I think.

  • TVPHOTOG

    Why does the extremely accurate ‘color picker’ tool in photoshop say that all the colors on the left circle are the same?

  • Confuzzlebot

    So this still doesn’t really answer the question of “is the colour I see the same colour you see”

    How do we truly really know if the black I see isn’t white to someone else? And I don’t mean language wise. 

  • http://bennettsamuellin.blogspot.com Bennett Lin

    Had the “odd green out” in the left circle been given a less subtle tint of yellow, though, I would have picked it out without needing a separate word to describe it. Could their failure to see the blue square be attributed to other factors, such as the fact that they were being asked to distinguish between pure colours on a brightly lit, two-dimensional surface? In the natural world, so much of how we identify colours is based on lighting and cast shadows. I just find it difficult to believe that had the experiment been conducted with coloured beads instead, they still would have had trouble picking out the blue one.

    Oh yeah, but I forgot that they did pick out the odd green one that I couldn’t. Well, I have no other explanation for that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mauricio.munuera Mauricio Munuera

    This is amazing! I think every designer, photographer, painter, stylist, etc. should watch it.

  • Kari

    It seems like the colors on the left are all the same, and if you perceive there is a different color on the left (especially at the 10:00 area), it would be because your eyes are playing tricks on you due to the blue square on the right…..  Just my take…

  • http://www.eriklaurikulo.se Erik Lauri Kulo

    I’ve seen the full documentary. It’s worth a watch and it brings up much more than the question “Do you see what I see?” For example it tackles the question how colors affect our behavior. One of the findings were that red slows down time for us.

    The answer to “do you see what I see?” is rather disappointing. The scientists believe that evolutionary colors, like the color of leafs, sea and so on, are perceived the same for us. But emotional colors, like the color of anger, are different. That’s not exactly a breakthrough. But there are breakthroughs in the documentary mentioned.

    It’s from BBC Horizon – Do you see what I see?

  • Meg

    For me, it didn’t help that a JPEG was used on the blog, when really it should have been a PNG. Each square has a number of different colors in it, and the colors within each square vary more than the colors of the “different” square does. I doubt the original photo had this issue.

  • Umbravita

    I think the square at 10 o’clock only LOOKS different because — well, if you look at the circle on the right and then onto a white piece of paper, you’ll still “see” it kind of left over in your vision. The blue in this will then affect the 10 o’clock green square when you look at the circle on the left.

  • Bojan Rajh

    Broken link?

  • Ira

    And to make it more complex, I’ll bet many of you don’t see the same hues with both of your eyes ;-)

  • Ira

    And to make it more complex, I’ll bet many of you don’t see the same hues with both of your eyes ;-)

  • Katamwilliams

    I love through the language glass one of the most interesting books I have ever read

  • Claudefelbert

    There are many outside influences on how we see colour and the light under which we examine things plays its role as well as how we learned to name colour as a child. Take an identical colour spectrum and ask people from the same background to put a pin in where red becomes orange and where orange becomes yellow and there will be differences of opinion. That is not how we see but how we have learned to identify colour.

  • Dianelouise58

    Where can I buy this movie???????

  • dinkster

    I superimposed the two circle images by crossing my eyes and refocusing on the virtual image. The only color that stood out was the blue on top of green one.

  • Feh

    I call BS on the claim on the Namibian tribe until I see a citation in a peer-reviewed journal.

  • K.S.

    The Namibian tribe thing is highly questionable. Can they not tell the difference between grass and the sky?

  • girl

    Its weird I don’t even see the same shades of colors with my glasses on so I’m sure no one sees the exact same colores

  • Sara

    The greens all around the square appear different to me. The ones on the top right are darker forest green, and the ones on the bottom left are a brighter purer green, while the ones on the top left are duller, almost yellow-green. Which ones are the most different is hard to say. The yellow-green square is obviously not the same “genre” of green, but the one that stands out to me the most is either the top left square (dark green), or the bottom right square (bright green). Maybe I’m crazy?

  • Sara

    * I meant, the greens all around the CIRCLE appear different to me.

  • Tim Bailen

    Anyone else find this article after listening to the fascinating RadioLab episode about color? I wanted to see the video of the interaction with the tribe, but I guess that YouTube video doesn’t exist anymore. If anyone ever discovers a copy, could you link to it here?