What You Need To Know About Color Perception


Colors make the world around us beautiful, but most importantly, colors are vital as they help us distinguish one thing from another. You can recognize a banana that’s gone bad by its color. It is speculated that we see more shades of green than any other color so that our ancient predecessors could spot a predator in the shrubs. We have a come a long way since then in terms of understanding how we see colors. There are two main coherent theories that explain our ability to see colors.  

  1. Trichromatic theory

Trichromatic theory is also known as the Young and Helmoltz theory. These two scientists carried out an experiment where they used up to three different light sources of different wavelengths so that the resulting mixture of light is the same color as a test field that composed of a single wavelength light. This showed that different colored lights of their respective wavelengths can interact with each other to produce a resultant wavelength. For example, mixing red and blue would give us magenta. This experiment led to the hypothesis that was later validated which said that there are three kinds of receptors in our eyes that exist for three kinds of colors, each with a different peak wavelength sensitivity. Now we know that the S cone is for short wavelengths (blue), the M cone is for medium wavelengths (green), and the L cone is for long wavelength (red).
  1. Opponent-Process theory
This theory was developed by Ewald Hering and suggests that our photoreceptive cone cells exist in pairs. Each of the cones in the pair is opposing in nature. The color pairs are blue/yellow, red/green and black/white. This theory states that activation of one cone in the pair inhibits the activity of the other. For example, seeing blue would inhibit the cone for yellow. The opponent-process theory is reinforced by the fact that we cannot see blue/red/back and yellow/green/white simultaneously. Our cone cells are programmed in such a manner that they function antagonistically. 

We may see colors differently
Colors are mere manifestations of the photoreceptive nerves and their processing in our brain. Perception is what it’s all about when visualizing colors. In a recent experiment on squirrel monkeys, scientists were able to make them see red, a color they couldn’t see before. Squirrel monkeys only have two types of color sensitive cone cells, green cones and blue cones. Lacking red cones, they are unable to see red color. A virus was injected into the DNA of their green cones which converted it into a red cone. Now the monkeys had blue, green and red cones allowing them to find green and red dots in a gray image which they previously couldn’t spot. The neurons immediately adapted to the new red cone cells.
This finding sets a scientific base for how Margaret Corbet, a vision teacher in the 1940s, was able to help young men with color perception difficulties pass their color perception tests before they became pilots! Here are is a great exercise you can do to improve your color perception. 
Counting colors
You can increase the number of colors you can distinguish by identifying colors to refine your ability to tell them apart. Count all the primary colors. The next day, count all the shades of green that you can find. The following days, count the shades of the remaining primary colors. Then, count all the secondary colors you can find. Then count and identify the different shades of grey. Then, work your way up to shades of brown. You should also observe how colors look in different lights including natural daylight, sunset, artificial light etc. 
In my book "Improve Your Eyesight Naturally" there is a chapter about color perception and how you can improve it with exercises.

Leo Angart

Workshops Worldwide - https://goo.gl/Tzwpz4

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