TED Conversations

Ivan Nel

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Do we see the exact same color?

Is my red and your red, the same color.

My answer was - Yes, it could vary slightly but the color should be the same. Because if we had to seperate light waves, and only allow red light in - if we both saw light, we would both have to be seeing Red.

My friend threw a spanner in with - the input is the same, but how my eye perceives that light could vary. His example was if you submitted a sound at a frequency of 100hz, and we both hear that sound - due to varying thickness of our eardrums - my ear could perceive that as 101hz, with his at 99hz.

Does the same apply to the eyes ? Is there a way to prove that we see the exact same color when we see Red.

Added, i also think that light is deflected differerntly depending on what it passes through, therefore green eyes pass light differently to Brown eyes, as do blue eyes. Could we therefore assume that all green eyes see the same Red ?

My friend also believes that as you have a unique thumbprint, you have a unique retinal print - which means that each person interprets light uniquely.

your input would be appreciated.



Closing Statement from Ivan Nel

Joee Ern, I do agree - One just has to think how Women are more expressive, hence they identify far more colors than your stereo-typical male.

an example is, what i call Red - A more expressive woman could call either Maraschino, or cayenne.
What i call purple, someone else could call either maroon, plum, eggplant, grape, orchid or lavender.
Green can be called honeydew, lime, spring, clover, fern, moss, flora or seam foam.

Whilst i do agree that we see different shades, What i am asking is whether or not its possible to prove that we are seeing the same color of the spectrum at all.

By isolating Red light, if we both saw a color, we are both seeing red. But there is still no way to prove that the red i am seeing, is not the blue that you are seeing.

Thanks everyone for your answers.

progress indicator
  • thumb
    Sep 12 2012: Thanks, but i think you missed the question... How can we prove that your Red is my Red. We both see a color, and we both know it as Red.... but maybe what you see when you look at something Red, is what i see when i look at something Green. We both just know it as Red.
  • Sep 14 2012: No,we all see colors differently. While we all have rods & cones, we do not have the same amounts. In addition, women and some males have the ability to see an additional blue. That is rather than R-G-B (trichromat), they have R-G-B1-B2 (tetrachromat), which provides the ability to more highly discriminate between shades of blue.


    Also some people, like myself, can see polarized light.
  • Sep 14 2012: my answer would be ....sure we don't see the same colors, even the eyes of the same person don't see same colors

    as an example... when you are outside and the sky is blue "i hope" try closing one eye "covering it with your hand would be better" for lets say 30 sec . after that try comparing the sky color impression you have from each eye alone. i think this is related to the chemical sensors that we have in our eyes.

    i also think the differences can be much greater when comparing two different persons, it's all about how our brains process the electrical waves they get. maybe the way i see darkness and light are reversed in my mind along with there labels "as white and black" .... maybe i see things like you would see them in a negative form, and maybe this is all nonsense and no one will ever prove it =P
  • Sep 18 2012: I know that people with different language perceive colours differently. Languages with a lot of words for colour nuances can differentiate colours more effectively than languages with less words.
  • Sep 16 2012: Radiolab's recent podcast "Why isn't the Sky Blue?" (http://www.radiolab.org/2012/may/21/sky-isnt-blue/) looks at how western civilization has accumulated color perception since Homer's time. One researcher found that there is no mention of the color blue in the Iliad or the Odyssey. And another source states that the color blue is the last color to be accepted across all cultures.
    Color perception seems to be biologically- as well as culturally- based.
  • Sep 14 2012: I like the idea of a unique retinal print and it's something I ponder over often. When I had an ear infection once, everyone sounded like a dalek. No-one else could hear this distortion and I thought it was similar to the reaction I have to black and white patterns due to a scotopic light sensitivity, whereby the black and white patterns 'move' and wave around, giving me terrible headaches.

    I also wondered whether it doesn't matter what our retina or ear drum are doing if our brains all interpret the signals differently. We may all be seeing a particular part of the spectrum, but does that mean that our brains all interpret this information in the same way?
  • Sep 14 2012: We were doing some re-org in our house, i was in an upstairs room, and asked my wife, who was downstairs, where does this green box go. She replied its not green, its dark brown. The point is, she knew exactly what box I was talking about. While my brain was just trying to evaluate where the box goes, her brain thought in a different prospective, first to correct my sense of color, may be then help where to move it. So the color spectrum may be same if all other factors, such as light, reflection, time of the day etc are same, but the interpretation dimension probably may not be same.
  • Sep 14 2012: Do we see the exact same color?

    Probably, to some extent, there is evidence that women see more color variations than men and some people see even more color variations. Monochromatic colors propbably look the same to everyone who is not color blind because it wouldn't make sense for evolutionary reasons to have people see the same color differently.

    "My answer was - Yes, it could vary slightly but the color should be the same. Because if we had to seperate light waves, and only allow red light in - if we both saw light, we would both have to be seeing Red."

    You'd see the same wavelength for sure, but your brains could translate it differently (as happens with color blindness), that's highly unlikely but not physically impossible.
  • Sep 14 2012: I had this very discussion many years ago with a friend of mine and we got to no solution. It is convincing and more comforting that when we say that something is red, all human beings see that precise shade. Meanwhile no one can prove that what i call white, to you looks like what for me is black.
  • Sep 12 2012: Hey all,

    I agree that we both see the same colours and we think we know the names of the colour we see...

    colours in many fields are translated into numbers: try to go a paint shop and tell them you want to buy a X colour for your living room or so. they are show you a whole catalogue of colours underneath come numbers which is the code.

    have you ever tried to find how the Red colour of TED... when you go to Organise a TED event and you go trough the norms and terms you will find the numbers of red that TED uses... why so when Red is Red.
    when it comes to TEDx it is about being world wide, (we all know this) and in different countries, in different culture RED colour might be seen differently.

    I had experience with a colour-blind person. He is a friend, together we use to do many sport activities, one of the is going to indoor climbing... the rocks have got colour indicating the difficulties of climbing.
    as my friends had to pick one colour and start climbing, I helped him in the beginning as he was climbing up I had to shout to which rock he had to grip and so on ... it was FUN...

    Umberto Eco has got a book called: To say almost the same. he is talking about the translation of the words and colours and how we interpret and understand them... Worth reading!
  • Sep 12 2012: I believe that we see exactly the same colour, that is why most people would know what you are saying when you tell of blue skies where you are; and most people get the picture when a write describes a scene and tells us the colour of certain things; and of course Ivan, most South Africans would not miss the colour of the Springbok jersey in a game.

    But, yes, a few people are colourblind.
  • thumb
    Sep 12 2012: I can only speculate but i agree with your friend,age and environment and use must play their part,also your own unique bio-makeup must also be taken into account,I always thought we carry our own piece of time with us due to our own unique way of time recognition e.g i go off in a daydream while you are talking to me and just for an instant,i lost time but then resynced and had to ask "What did you say" we move with time but our individual perception of time is different though time never stops for no one.