Do we really see the same colors?

How do we really know that we all see the same colors the same way? Certainly the eye captures light, but it’s the brain that interpret the light and processes the hue we “see”? We learn that a particular hue has a name, but does each of our brains really produce the same color? In other words, how do we really know that the red color I see isn’t your blue or perhaps your green is my yellow?

I think a lot of people who have considered this question come down to ‘we don’t.’ We can agree on names and light wavelengths. We don’t have any way to quantify or compare what goes on inside our brains yet.

We don’t.

In fact, my eyes see slightly different colors - things have more red tones through my right eye than my left, and my left sees more detail in low light. So I’m willing to say our eyes might see very different colors indeed, if there’s noticeable variance in just a sample of two.

I would think we all see the same colors, only because we see things we think match, and do not match, like outfits or house colors. I think if we all saw different colors, color schemes would not exist.

Nope. :slight_smile: If you work at it, say you are a painter or a paint mixer, you can develop more of the color-receptive cells in your eyes and you will be able to see more gradations fo color.

Come over here if you’d like to do this properly. :slight_smile:

I wondered about this years ago and did some reading. There have been studies done that show we all undergo the same chemical processes when viewing colors. When I see red and you see red we’re undergoing the same chemical process. That’s one way to look at it.

Another would be to measure the impact of color on one’s mood. Red overwhelmingly causes people to become stimulated whereas blue tends to have the opposite affect. The logical assumption there is that we are seeing and reacting to the same color.

Of course we all probably see things a little differently from each other even if its not a measurable amount. Consider someone who is partly color blind. Certainly that person will see something other than someone who is not color blind when looking at reds and greens.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.

This is interesting. Then one would expect that colored blind individuals would not experience the same chemical processes to red that non-colored blind people do or have the mode influences either. Have there been any such comparisons?

Cite please.

We all have broadly the same kind of sensory and cognitive apparatus, but there’s really no way to tell whether anything about our internalised perceptions of the world are experienced in anything like the same way; you see the colours blue and yellow and you understand them as the sensations of blue and yellow, but I might perceive them as sensations in a way that would internally mean to you the smell of cinnamon and the feel of sandpaper; of course I call these sensations ‘blue’ and ‘yellow’, because that’s all I’ve ever known them to be, and to me, ‘blue’ and ‘yellow’ behave exactly as I expect them to. There is no way to get inside another person’s perception without involving your own perception. We will never know.

Suppose you could see into the ultra-violet-what “color” could it be? The same for the near infrared-ouwl it be red or something different?
has anyone done this experiment? Scan the brain of someone who is watching a red object-then compare the brainscan witha different person 9watching the same red object). Does the same region of the brain light up?

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2 Really Dumb Questins Concerning Colors [Do we all see colors the same way?]

The key to this question lies in the word “see”, and I think it’s quoted because the OP understands the ambiguity. It’s important, then, to understand that based on our interpretation of this word, the OP’s question could have two different answers.

If by “see” we mean “have a particular cellular reaction on our retina”, then that’s a testable hypothesis; I don’t have the answer myself, but I agree some type of experiment could be developed that most would reasonably agree decides the question (I suspect the answer is “no”, our retinas all behave differently when exposed to the same red light, but IANA physiologist). I’m less inclined to include things like “mood” as a vaild objective measure, because of the subjective reporting of these items and the fact that many other factors could impact mood other than the color you’re seeing now.

Now if “see” really means “perceive” (in the sense of ideas presented to our mental model of how the world works), then the question cannot be answered in this way. Mental processes are often verified by some interaction with the real world–“real” in the sense that it provides a laboratory for testing our model. If we do not allow e.g. the physiology of sight–such as the reaction of the retina–to decide the issue, we have no real-world means of answering the question.

At this point, then, the question becomes metaphysical–meaning we must go “beyond physics” (correspondence with reality) to answer it. There is wide opinion just on this board as to how we can approach metaphysical questions (this is one reason why there is a “Great Debates” forum). The materialist Sentient Meat, for example, would say there is no such thing as metaphysics, so the question is meaningless. I tend to agree, not because I don’t believe in metaphysical processes, but only because I personally can’t determine a valid metaphysical approach to the question.

I disagree. For instance, my version of sight could produce in my mind sensations which, to you, would seem like various tones played on a glockenspiel. However, having lived my whole life with the tones, I can distinguish amongst with the same facility as you between the sensations of red and purple.


The question is unanswerable since it would require changing your visual system and the result of that would depend on what changes were made. Seems to me that the most likely possibility is that they would be “new” colours, so you could simply say that the colour would be ultraviolet or infrared as the case may be. The reason I say that is that you would need different cones (the colour sensitive receptors) in your retina to see those, so it would be reasonable to assume there would be different neural inputs to your brain, so you would “see” different colours.

It’s interesting: this question has been asked by college students for decades. One night, feeling the philosophical effect of mind altering chemicals, someone suddenly blurts out, “Does everyone see the same colors?” and the debate begins as though it had just been thought of for the first time in human history.

I think that’s what Donald Sutherland asked right after he suggested that there could be a whole universe in a single particle in your thumbnail. :smiley:

Today in Biology class it was noted that when bacteria in water was first discovered, there was a theory advanced that goes like so:

What if our whole existence is inside of a drop of water, and there’s an exponentially bigger creature looking down at our entire world; and it could all be about to end when someone pours the glass of water down the drain?

This raised a few other questions in my mind: How many different ways could WWII have ended, in one glass of water? Does the entire history of our universe pass in an instant in the eyes of an observer? And regarding what passes in an instant in our eyes: do bacteria perceive such passages of time the way we perceive the history of our universe?

Seems like this is just a matter of your having chosen to concentrate on that, and your brain investing the time in figuring this out. Similarly, I can walk into a fabric store and see all kinds of different nuances to the fabrics, but someone not into fabric arts who has no interest may see gross differences but none of the subtleties I would.

Grr… I can’t find any information to back it up online, but I read it as one of those short articles in some magazine several years back. I remember it because my husband is a painter and we discussed it. I don’t know if we are seeing the same color when hubby and I both look at a paint chip, but I do know he is able to see all the colors that go into it and I am not. I may see what looks like a light purple, but he can tell you that it’s this red, that blue, a certain amount of white.