Do Colours Look The Same For All Of Us?

It's probably one of the most basic philosophical questions of childhood; "What if what I see as red is what you see as green, and we just never know?!" Well childhood and stonerdom. OK, and maybe the rest of us too. It is, after all, an intriguing proposition that mankind's understand of colour is based on a sort of misunderstanding.

This week, Vsauce is tackling the question with characteristic flair. And as always, the realities of the situation are a bit complicated, but it's all the more interesting for it. [Vsauce]


    My left eye shows everything a little bluer than my right eye.

      Yeah I've noticed a slight colour discrepancy between my eyes too. Brain just finds a middle ground.

        Doctor Karl was talking about this on his science show a few weeks ago, it has a name.

    I was trying to explain this to a guy i once knew but no matter how i put it, he just couldnt grasp what i was talking about

      Likewise! I was trying to describe this to a group of friends who just spent their time ridiculing me. Oh well, less fun for them.

        I'm pretty sure in my case that the bottle of scotch each that had been consumed had something to do with it. Although he was a bit of a twit also

    This is something I pondered some time ago. I came to the conclusion that it simply doesn't matter. It's completely unimportant and not worth wasting time thinking about. If medical science ever figures out how to perfect a brain transplant, it could be an issue, but until then, it makes no difference to me or anyone else.

      Yes let's just sweep everything under the rug until we're up shit creek and haven't yet thought to invent a paddle.

        I'm sorry. I must have missed something. What possible consequences are there to this issue? Did you actually watch the video? This has no effect on anyone and almost certainly never will.

          The universe could - nay, would - implode.

          Last edited 18/02/13 8:09 pm

          Its about understanding the human mind. Which might be worth knowing about before you attempt to transplant a brain, don't you think?

          Last edited 18/02/13 8:53 pm

      @marcd - Agreed - useless, like most philosophy.
      @mdn - You're talking utilitarianism here, this question and its answer (if feasible) have no utility.

        Just because you can't think of one doesn't mean there aren't others that can't.

          @mdn OK - let's say we bother to give the two possible answers to the question;
          1. We all see colour the same. Result - business as usual.
          2. We see colour differently. Result - business as usual + interesting chat at dinner parties.

          Utility = 0 where the net additional outcome (benefit) is +0, or +0 + dinner party chat.

        I would never suggest that philosophy is useless, far from it. I just believe that, in this case, there is no benefit in considering it. As long as we can all interpret colours the same way, it has no effect on humanity. In the history of mankind, has there ever been a case such as this reported? There are far more important philosophical issues to discuss.

          There are far more important philosophical issues to discuss.

          ,,,like "where do jockeys come from", for example.

          @marcd 'most philosophy' congrats on misquoting from a 5 word sentence.

      If it doesn't matter, either way. Then it also doesn't matter if we do think about such things :/

      Last edited 19/02/13 9:36 am

    I have always wondered this! Im pretty sure we must considering all the chumps who willingly wear pink shirts and think it is ok.

    Last edited 18/02/13 5:35 pm

      But its still the same colour he was told "is a girls colour" growing up. So he's just a sly transvestite.

    I brought this up in primary school and was shut down by my teacher very quickly and was told "no, everyone sees the same"

      Shoulda said 'explain colourblind people then...'

    Although I know I shouldn't be by now, I'm still always surprised when I see stuff like this which I always figured no one but me thought about.

    I always thought those colour blind tests would mean its not possible for huge disparities, since if you saw one colour as another the numbers would not be clear.

      Its not that simple, as colour doesn't exist in the first place, colour detail is all in your mind and how you perceive it may be completely different to you but we can never explain it so never been sure.... I have no idea how you experience the world... if you don't see the world like I do, you're missing out, it's beautiful.

        So you're saying some of us would percieve colour entirely different, not as different pre-established colours then?

          If you consider a colour wheel, people might see in different 'phases'.
          So where I might see red and orange, you might see what I consider yellow and green, or even blue and purple.
          Then it wouldn't matter how out of phase two people are, they can just as easily discriminate between different colours in a colour blindness test.

          Yes sir. All you know is the frequency of the light is green, and you know that because your mum pointed at something reflecting light of the green frequency and said 'green'. How your brain actually interprets green could be random, it could be my red and we'll never know, after all to both of us it's still the colour of trees and grass, and its still the colour everyone else calls green.

    I read that older people see washed out colours and the brain compensates. How did 'they ' know?

    Actually, there are scientific tests to accurately and reliably detect whether or not someone's perception of "red" is the same as your perception of "red". Its called the color stroop task. In a nutshell, Person A will react faster (to press a button) to the word "RED" when it is in the color they perceive as "red" and slower when the word "RED" is in a color that they perceive as something other than the color red (e.g. the color green). Person B perceives what person A sees as the colour red to be the color green. Person B will then react faster (to press a button) to the word "RED" when it is in the color green (green from the perspective of person A) and slower when the word "RED" is in red (again from the perspective of person A). The difference is in the order of milliseconds, but it is detectable. Such a difference can also be detected when these reaction time tasks are used in conjunction with neuropsychological methods (EEG, MEG, fMRI etc)

    EDIT: Assuming that people's perception of the same color is different, then their performance on the stroop task would be affected

    Whether or not apes have language and actually understand it is debatable. Theory of mind is interesting though, particularly in light of a recent experiment in the journal Animal Cognition. The study suggested that animals (dogs) do indeed have a theory of mind because they tend to steal food more in a dark room where humans have difficulty seeing compared to when it is light where we find it relatively easy to see (Juliane Kaminski, Andrea Pitsch, Michael Tomasello. Dogs steal in the dark. Animal Cognition, 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s10071-012-0579-6).

    Last edited 18/02/13 10:51 pm

    In some of William Gibson's books people can "hook" themselves into other people. That is, they can through some sort of complex of electronic devices see, hear, feel exactly what you're feeling.

    We can always compare :P Geddit?

    The colour blind can't distinguish certain colors from each other like blue/green will show up green/green, I think it's just colours that are close on the spectrum too.
    As to do we see colours differently, I'd say we would all have a small shift in colour interpritation, so maybe colours are just a different shade. But your not going to get people seeing red as purple, genetic variation makes us different but not that different.

    Colour not Color !!

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