Scenery dictates our perception of colour

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Scenery dictates our perception of colour

October 17, 2015 - 17:45
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Humans perceive colours differently in winter compared with summer.

Fall leaves. Our perception of yellow changes with the season. This process is very useful because you can adapt to these huge seasonal changes in environmental colour and continue to see and discriminate between colours accurately.

Humans identify four unique hues – blue, green, yellow and red – that do not appear to contain mixtures of other colours.

Scientists at the University of York examined how our colour perception changes between seasons and in particular how we process the colour known as unique yellow.

Unique yellow is particularly interesting to scientists as it is stable across large populations – everyone agrees what unique yellow looks like despite the fact that people’s eyes are often very different.

The researchers in the Department of Psychology wanted to find out why this colour is so stable and what factors might make it change. They thought that unique yellow might depend not on the biology of the eye but on the colour of the natural world.

“In York, you typically have grey, dull winters and then in summer you have greenery everywhere. Our vision compensates for those changes and that, surprisingly, changes what we think ‘yellow’ looks like, "PhD student and lead author, Lauren Welbourne, said." It’s a bit like changing the colour balance on your TV.”

“This is the first time natural changes in the environment have been shown to affect our perception of colour. For me as a vision scientist it is fascinating as it is telling us more about how visual processing works.

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