Do you think you see colors differently?

palimpsestNovember 13, 2012

Do you have any evidence that you see colors differently than other people (other than color-blindness)?

To some degree since we are individuals, I think that they only reason we see "Blue" is because whatever BluX is to us and whatever is BlXe to someone else are both referred to as Blue by the general population. This is also why dyslexics can read to some extent because lbue is recognizable to them as blue.

But complex colors may not be so clear cut. I know I identify some greyed colors as blue or green when other people tend to call them the opposite.

I also think that I see a lot of colors as "acidic" or "mucky" and they don't seem to have this negative connotations at all to other people. The house my sister recently bought, in my opinion, has been painted in a number of colors that I feel are "off" in an acidic or mucky sense. There may be nothing wrong with them but I think they are a near miss to something better. Of course with the synesthesia, I get a "bad taste" from some shades.

I picked out a color for one bathroom that was barely different than what was already there, but to me a vast improvement.

On the other hand though, some shade variations don't bug me at all, and "off" combinations I can deal with happily.

I also see colors that don't exist per se, particularly when looking at rugs. I don't match anything from the rug at all but see Impressions of colors in the rug that I may then use.

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Yes, I do believe we see them differently. Each person's photo receptors are unique to them, some being stronger or weaker thus you'd get a variation in color and, in some cases, get the colors completely wrong. I recently had cataracts removed from both eyes and was shocked at the colors we had painted our rooms, I love them and they're much nicer that I had seen prior to the surgery. I too have seen colors that just leave me shocked that anyone would love them but that's just personal taste developed over time imo.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 12:51PM
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Definitely! I've often wondered if different people see colors radically differently, accounting for different "favorite" colors. I know that my husband and I see colors differently. To me our recyling bin is orange (reddish orange, that is), but to my husband it is simply red. And then there's his "brown" shirt, that I call taupe...

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 12:59PM
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Here's a fun comparison chart ;)

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 1:02PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

The terms color acuity and color tolerance are kind of casually tossed around. Like so many other aspects of color, they've been dumbed down by bloggers desperate for content but have not one fat clue what they're writing about. (but I digress)

Color acuity and tolerances are very real things and although most of us are on the same page and there is more common ground than not, everyone has unique physiology. It's like a finger print. God willing we all have healthy hands and fingers but no two fingerprints are the same. And that's why color can never be anything but subjective.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 1:05PM
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I also wonder what cultural influences have an effect on how we see color.

If you look at Victorian color palettes, some of them are quite garish and awful. Part of this is related to the relative darkness in which people lived. Subtle colors greyed out in dim light. Part of it was the popularity of using new dyes and new technology. But the results were sometimes palettes that are downright unpleasant. Is it possible somehow that they saw them differently than we do?

Even if you look at more recent color palettes, there are combinations that one would rarely put together today. I wonder if the limited availability of exact matches or blends "erased" some of the bias or discernment and allowed them to be considered okay.

Diana Vreeland's famous red living room doesn't bother me so much in that it is all red, or stuffed to the gills. The thing that bothers me about it is that the reds don't all seem to play well together. Could "matching" have had more leeway at one point than it does now?

Of course some of this has been complicated by the fact that pigments age differently. I have seen all original car interiors that are layered in unpleasant combinations of all blue or all green, some of which fight each other. Ads from the era show that the colors were more compatible when new but aged differently.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 1:08PM
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There was some kind of web site, possibly even linked on an old thread here by someone, showing many, many, many shades of colors. I don't remember exactly how the whole thing worked, but it was possible for you, as viewer/participant, to track the number of shades you were able to discern - something like that; like I said, I forget the details of the process. I scored very, very high on the number, so I assume that means I am able to perceive many variations in colors.

I've never thought of colors as acidic or mucky, but I have seen color combos, in magazines, in actual houses, even in images people here have posted, that I dislike, sometimes strongly, or worse, that have almost set my teeth on edge.

The question is: is that a "real" reaction or simply an aesthetic one? Second question: is there a difference?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 1:19PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

lynxe - here's the link. A good score would indicate good color acuity. It also indicates a decently calibrated monitor. So, if someone scores poorly, it doesn't necessarily mean poor color acuity. It could be the monitor.

Here is a link that might be useful: Color Test

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 1:22PM
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Yes. I notice this especially with blue-grays. Often, DH describes these as blue and I call them gray. He has pale blue eyes and I have dark brown eyes. I wonder if our irises contribute to our differing perceptions. There were studies many years ago that indicated this is the case. However, I do not think it is just that factor. I have an old velvet chair. To me, and to my DSes, both brown-eyed, the chair is brown. Our daughters, blue-eyed, call it the brown chair, too. DH refers to it as the maroon chair. True, the brown has some red in it, which we all recognize, but it is definitely brown! Says she, stamping her foot. There is a certain shade of green that makes me physically ill. I actually start to heave when I see it, and, if I am surrounded by it for any length of time, I will develop a migraine. If I find myself surrounded by that color, I remove myself from that environment immediately. It's a yellow green, but not any yellow green, because I find some yellow greens lovely. Since there are stores and offices that use this color, surely most people are not similarly affected. Some of the way we categorize color is learned, but some must be a matter of inherent perception. When I look at color samples or, say, the Color Stories website, certain colors that I think of as violet-tinged blues are in the violet category.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 1:24PM
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I don't know...I know that some colors that others love I hate. For example I do not like BM Revere Pewter but think I'm one of the few on the planet who does not. I painted one of my sons bathrooms in RP and really hated it. I find the color depressing. My son liked it well enough though and that's what counts. I'm one of those that do not think colors have to match, they just have to go. I feel more comfortable in different shades and tones within a color family. I feel less comfortable when everything matches to a T. I can't say I'm into extremes though, maybe just short of that.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 1:38PM
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I often see more blue than others. In college our chapel had painted brick walls, which one of the priests insisted was battle ship gray. I couldn't figure out what he was talking about because I saw a pale gray blue (a nice color, actually). About half the people we knew saw the blue, others saw the gray.

But it's not just a skew toward blue. I detect purple or lilac in blues much more often than others do (e.g., see BM Oxford Gray); and again, a certain number of people agree with me.

OTOH, I have a dark brown velvet chair that two female friends insist is purple. It is not. I am very familiar with the eggplant tones that a dark brown can take on, and this velvet does not really have them. It does have that iridescent quality that velvet nap takes on in direct sunlight, but that's it--it's not purple.

All of this is to say, I think some people's brains have trouble seeing past texture. A blue or brown object is actually made up of many, many colors, depending on the lighting. The brain is usually able to resolve this to one color. However, in high texture situations, like brick or velvet, I think some people have trouble doing that.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 2:47PM
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According to my KD, colour perception comes from the number and shape of the cones in your eye. I happen to hate the colour red and I can pick that colour out in floors, paints very easily.

I know, from shopping with friends, that I don't see the underlying colours in grey or taupe very well, unless it's red or green which is a colour I really like. Interestingly enough red and green are complimentary colours.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 3:29PM
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I don't know if I can describe this correctly or not, but if I see a color, I can't always tell you it's 'grey with a hint of blue' vs 'grey with a hint of green', but if I get 2 shades of grey together, then I can discern it much more clearly. Not just greys, but you get the idea I hope.

I think terriks nailed it. Y-chromosome sure knows his colors! Red, Yellow, Pink, Blue...that's exactly what he calls them. No reddish-orange, pale yellow, salmon, etc for him!

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 4:59PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

There is evidence that in order to see a color, you have to be able to name it. If in your language or culture there is no name for a color, you cannot see it.

Himba people are very quick to point out which of these squares is a different color, but alas, I cannot.

Here is the same image with the rgb color listing

In a similar color way, we are easily able to pick out an aqua from the green, but the Himba people alas cannot.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 5:09PM
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But isn't a pupil, a pupil, and light is drawn in thru the pupil, not the iris? If that is in fact the case, do we really *see* colors thru the eyes or the brain?

Here is a link that might be useful: truth

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 5:36PM
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In my previous life I was a photographer and when I started school the first thing we were told in my color printing class was this:
"My experience in teaching this class has taught me that a number of you will probably need to have your color printing done by a lab because you read color inaccurately. You'll be able to figure out if that's you within the first few classes." It was true. Some people's photographs were reading very blue, green, etc., and they couldn't see it.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 8:03PM
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My level of discernment is similar to the left (I score well on those tests), but my tendency to description is more like the right.

I tend to say "green", with modifiers: light, medium, dark, pastel, intense, blue-green. Or painterly descriptions: viridian, earth green, etc.

I don't like descriptions like " merlot with a mocha glaze" and "creamy white". The latter actually makes me think of being force fed cream cheese through a pastry tube, like a goose being prepared for fois gras. And I don't find it descriptive either--"off white" is just as good.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 8:29PM
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OMG, Annie, I'm color-impaired, but I picked out the correct square at once! It must be something about the undertones -- since I'm relatively insensitive to green, it doesn't overpower the other colors.

My dad was also color-impaired, and we used to have arguments about where blue stopped and green started. He was always wrong, of course.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:06PM
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I always do very well on color tests but boy Annie I think those greens either brought on a hot flash or caused one that was already creeping up on me to explode. Those shades of green hurt my eyes today. Is there anything written about hormones causing certain colors to hurt your head/eyes and making you feel like you are on fire? This is not a joke question. I think I'm going to be sick.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:16PM
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I can see where "seam foam" wouldn't be terribly evocative.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:25PM
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Absolutely. DH and I certainly see colours differently, but we have the most heated debates over his eye colour. His eyes are blue. His entire life he has thought that his eyes are green. His mother thinks his eyes are green. About 90% of people asked (who know nothing about our conflict) will answer that his eyes are blue. The rest say green or gray-green. It is fascinating. My son's eyes are brown like mine, but my daughter's are a crazy combination of blue, gray and green, with the blue just dominating.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:39PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

The image below is meant to be looked at in rows.

Which small square in each row is brightest?

The middle one appears brightest as it is surrounded by its opposite. Of course, in reality, the small squares are exactly the same, but they are being drained by the surrounding colors which are closer to them on the color to the warm side and one to the cool.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:51PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Want some more fun? Scroll down to "colour perception" for some amazing illusions in color perception....when blue can be yellow and orange can be brown and gray isn't gray.

Then look at color perception 2...even more fascinating.

Here is a link that might be useful: optical illusions

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 10:20PM
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But don't forget, not all computer monitors/screens are the same, so the pics we see here may be the quality of the computer rather than our perception.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 10:58PM
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funcolors - I really enjoyed the test but my eyes got so tired!

It's different with a textured color, like a fabric. You have different colored threads or different levels of threads being hit by the light at a different angle. Then of course there's where the color is located in the room, and the time of day.

I've come to see decorating as a very advanced skill. How did I ever expect to be able to just make a nice home without any training of any kind?! It has been fun, but it would have been a good idea to have a bunch of practice homes before the real living began.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 10:26AM
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Even the same person can perceive colors differently without realizing it. I have a medical condition that eventually causes blue-yellow color blindness, and I was very nearly at that point by the time it was diagnosed. The color acuity problem cleared up literally overnight after the first treatment, and it was pretty startling to wake up in the morning and suddenly see all colors with so much more saturation. Everything had become very grayed without my realizing it, since it happened slowly.

So yes, I do think it's extremely likely that different people see colors differently.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 10:45AM
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That green square one was weird. I picked out the different color immediately, on first glance. Then when I stared and tried to analyze, I couldn't tell a difference. When I scrolled down, I saw that I was correct. So I looked again, and BAM the same thing happened. The longer I looked, though, the more they look the same.

Why is that?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 10:47AM
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That green square one was weird. I picked out the different color immediately, on first glance. Then when I stared and tried to analyze, I couldn't tell a difference. When I scrolled down, I saw that I was correct. So I looked again, and BAM the same thing happened. The longer I looked, though, the more they look the same.

That's exactly what happened to me. I picked it out immediately, then started second guessing, only to find out I was right from the beginning.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 12:28PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Fatigue. Staring at one color will fatigue rods & cones and you see less color or no color. That's how the after-image exercises work.

Here is a link that might be useful: worn out eyeballs

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 12:49PM
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When I do these exercises my discernment is high. I was concerned by the green squares in the circle because I saw the different one immediately but thought they were ALL supposed to be different and I could not see that. :)

But with things like tweed I tend to see the secondary thread more than the primary, sometimes (the weft?).

I also seem to read undertones more than the primary hue sometimes. It is usually the undertone that to me, mwaks the color mucky, muddy, acidic or "taste" or "smell" funny. I do not physically get the smell, but psychologically I guess I "know" it enough that I will salivate or feel a bit nauseated. In a biochemical sense, I read the "basic" vs. "acidic" less, but the basic undertone tends to disturb me less...kind of hard to explain.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 2:30PM
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I usually identify colors with foods or drinks ....

LOL! :)

Just teasing! :)

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 3:26PM
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My DH and I see colors differently. He is much more sensitive to green than I am, so any of the blues that begin to drift toward aqua are still blue to me, but green to him.

I'm more red sensitive than he is. Unless there's a reason to be more precise, I am likely to call anything from true red to terra cotta "red" rather than orange. And I see reds with a hint of blue as more purple.

Possibly because I have a lot of yellow in my skin tone, and blue-reds and blue-pinks are hugely unbecoming to me.

On top of that, a particularly unpleasant aunt of mine had blue-reds and blue-pinks all over her house, and they still give me the heebie-jeebies.

I also find very strong yellows to be unpleasant as a surrounding - I'm sensitive to its anxious-making quality.

And so on...

And yes, I think you can learn to be more sensitive to color. The best art teacher I ever had in my youth used to send us outside on overcast days and make us stare at the gray skies looking for all the colors that lurked in them. Then she sent us to the museum to look at all the Sargent portraits of ladies in white dresses and the Georgia O'Keefe paintings to do the same thing. It made a big difference in what I could see.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 4:05PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

Women see an extra wavelength of red. This is a supporting article with the details but I first learned this at the IACC-NA courses.

"Arizona State University scientists have discovered the gene which allows people to see the colour red comes in an unusually high number of variations.

The gene sits on the X chromosome, which means women have two copies, and men just one.

The researchers believe this could mean that women may have a more acute perception of the red-orange spectrum."

Here is a link that might be useful: Extra Red

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 6:43PM
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The texture of a fabric does have a lot to do with the way some people perceive the color.
We had a panne velvet duvet color which to me was clearly, indisputably green. I was shocked when dh insisted it was gold. The sheen on it may have given it a gold look- but it was green.
We recently bought a chocolate brown chenille chair. I expressed disappointment that it is more green than brown - again, dh maintains it is absolutely brown. The ground color is chocolate, but the textured, chenille part is olive. There is a difference. I know I'm right.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 6:53PM
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funcolors, thank you for that information!
Very interesting.
I feel like such a girl!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 9:18PM
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a long time ago i heard my brother listening to a song with the lyrics "the lemon of pink" and it made so much sense to me. most people i know would not have a clue how telling that statement is.

yes, environment, in my opinion, plays a major role on how we see and understand color. look at the painters from Venice--their understanding of color was very different from painters elsewhere. environment can play a role in ways like it did with the impressionists, who were obviously very interested in things like color theory, painting outdoors, they had the benefit of collapsible paint tubes to do so, but also they often noticed reflected imagery (shop windows, wet cobblestone, etc) and their artwork reflects that (no pun intended).

the worst is when someone calls blue "purple" or vice versa. these people obviously don't understand colors like indigo.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 9:51PM
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Funny, this morning we had some Jet Mist granite installed in the kids' bathroom. DH just said "I like that black granite way better than the black granite in NH." He was stunned when I told him the NH granite is green. :)

Beth P.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:05AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

DH is color blind and more times than not thought some clothing was green when it was beige.

It worked to my favor though in the garage. I thought there was no reason why the new steps and shelves into the house couldn't be cheerful and colorful, though I know DH is very conservative when it comes to color. So I showed him the paint color and asked him what it was. He said gray....I said perfect!

(I did tell him the truth before we painted though...he was fine with it.)

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:41AM
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that's so funny, Annie.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 9:11PM
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Lori A. Sawaya

LOL @ Annie. Love the color, btw!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 11:05PM
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I wore a pink suit at my wedding. I gave my red-green color blind DH a matching pink tie and told him it was beige. He got tired of being complimented on his "beige" tie by the guests who were all in on the joke.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 12:28AM
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I do believe that is the loveliest gray I have ever seen!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 10:49AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

It wasn't until after that our remodeler told me I must have been inspired by his makita drill and nut driver kit!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 11:37AM
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