What's the fascination with asking this of colorblind people?

Seriously. Why are so many people compelled to ask me The Question (“What color is this?”) when they discover I’m colorblind? I’ve asked some friends who also happen to be colorblind if they get the same reaction from other people. Waddyaknow, they do! It’s seems to be a universal reaction, based on this rather small sample. It’s almost like a variant of the Borg has taken over all thought processes for the person and they cannot resist the urge.

What I don’t understand is the compulsion to ask “What color is this? This? And that over there?” Let me help you out if you’re so compelled: Yesterday, we couldn’t tell what color the things are, today we can’t tell, and barring some miracle tomorrow won’t make any change in the type of vision and we still won’t be able to tell. It’s a simple physical fact. People, we’re colorblind! That means that we can’t tell what color something is! It’s like asking a deaf person what tone you’re playing on a musical instrument.

So, I have a question each for the following two groups of the TM:

[ol][li]If you’re colorblind, how do you deal with people asking The Question?[/li]If you’re not colorblind, do you succumb to the compulsion to ask The Question?[/ol]

I don’t succumb. Not to that question, anyway. What do I win? (I succumbed to *that *one instead)

  1. Does not apply.
  2. No I don’t.

I think it’s part of the whole Curious Monkey Brain. We need to verify unaccustomed things, to a point. When you tell people you’re colorblind, they need to ask - which is quite stupid, since after all if you wanted to claim colorblindness you could just come up with whatever answer. In my case, I get that reaction about things like being able to read real fast or being ahead of schedule or having a decent internal clock (in-decent if for some reason I’d like to go to bed after the time it insists I should).

[li]If you’re not colorblind, do you succumb to the compulsion to ask The Question?[/list][/li][/QUOTE]

Not that particular question, but I’ll have to admit that my curiosity will probably cause me to ask other questions - after all, it’s a conversation with someone who perceives the world in a consistently different way to me - how can I not want to ask questions about that?

It’s the bafflement in your mind at how someone else manages with senses fundamentally different to your own, it has to be expressed somehow.

How about “What, exactly, is colorblindness?” That’d work for me.

I don’t know I’ve ever met someone who told me they were color blind (I’m sure I’ve met color blind people, but it never came up in conversation). It seems pretty insensitive to quiz them on it, people really do this?

It’s kinda like that, but it’s also the whole philosophical and neuropsychological questions about whether we all internally perceive the external world in equivalent ways anyway.

-And not just ‘does your blue look the colour I would call green?’, but maybe ‘do you see that blue cube in a way I would describe as feeling a fuzzy disc that smells of vanilla?’
Your internal representation of the world doesn’t necessarily have to be anything like mine - as long as it’s consistent and functional.

I teach English in a middle school overseas. The idea of color to differentiate things seems to have been a popular thing for whoever wrote the texts for the kids. So, the issue comes up fairly often for me. Yep, people really do this. Apparently they just can’t grok that there’s not a one-to-one relationship between the way their eyes divide the visible spectrum and the way a coloblind person’s eyes do.

The only colorblind person I know was one of my high school classmates. The subject came up one day we were talking about possible career choices and he said he’d love to be able to keep the family farm but being unable to tell which peaches are ripe enough to pick without grabbing them makes for a lousy peaches farmer, so the farm will go to his brother. Colorblindness had been mentioned in natural history (when we were talking about genetic inheritance) and the book said there are degrees to it, so we asked whether he was “like, totally colorblind or it’s only some colors.” Only green vs. yellow, but it happens to include the range from “green peach” to “over-ripe peach.”

Well, to be fair, there’s color blind and then there’s color blind. Some people only have trouble with certain colors (and which ones vary by which form of color blindness they have) and others can’t see in color, only a “shades of gray” sort of thing. If people still go off if you explain the version you have, that’s a little odd, but as others have said, the concept that someone else perceives the world quite differently with one of their senses is stunning to some people.

My dad was partially color blind, as was one of my oldest childhood friends. The friend’s mom had total color blindness. I grew up around it so I don’t really ask anything other than (occasionally) what form they have.

There are worse questions too. I worked with a guy who was totally colourblind - he said the topic came up during the job interview and the boss asked him “So you wouldn’t be able to see a red forklift then?”

Yeah. That’s right - anything that isn’t black, white or grey appears completely transparent…

But as Mangetout pointed out, we really can’t grok (to use its full definition) how another person perceives the world, it works upon our curiosity.

I dated a guy who was color-blind, and I asked a whole slew of questions, because I have (as someone said upthread) a Curious Monkey Brain. IIRC, I never asked “what color is this,” but asked many other dumb questions. Like – since he had red/green colorblindness – “If you’re driving at night out in the boonies and see a traffic light a half mile or so away, you can’t see the actual fixture so don’t know whether it’s the top light or the bottom light, what do you do?” Which, in retrospect, isn’t the most intelligent question I’ve ever asked – but would you regard it as rude?

I’d probably laugh a bit and then respond with, “Same as you. I’d continue driving until I got to the intersection, by which time the thing’d probably be green anyway.” And just to mess with you, I might add, “Or so I hope.” :smiley:

When I worked at a hagweon* in Incheon, one of the 11-year old girls had the ambition of being a police woman when she graduates from college. She knew about my colorblindness and when I showed her my California Driver License, she was stunned. She asked me if I planned on getting a Korean Driver License and I told her, “Of course.” The girl actually called her mentor at the local police station to ask if it’s true we colorblind folks can get licensed to drive! Good kid. Oh, yeah, the answer’s yes, even in Korea.

The bit about the stupid question (“What color is this?”) that grates on my nerves is that I just told the person that I’m colorblind! The word itself, one would think, explain what the condition is.

*By the way: If you’re planning on working at a hagweon in Incheon, PLEASE contact me either via PM or e-mail so I can tell you the name of the place. The students were good, but the owner is dishonest to the extreme.

I am slightly red-green colorblind.

What that means for me is that there a certain range of greens and browns that I can’t distinguish. On a more practical level, pretty much the only thing it means for me is that I’ll pick up a green or brown sweater in the store and have to ask what color it is, and sometimes my wife will ask me to get some brown thing and I’ll come back with a green one.

The way I learned I was colorblind was that I was looking at one of those colorblindness test books where they have numbers made out of dots, and I couldn’t find the numbers on maybe two or three of the 20 or so pages.

That means that on the rare instances it comes up and I don’t start the discussion off with “I’m very slightly colorblind,” up will come The Question. They’ll point to their bright blue shirt or vivid red scarf and say “what color is this?” It then takes me a repetition or two of “I’m very slightly colorblind, just in my browns and greens” to shut them up.

No, it isn’t. A deaf person doesn’t hear anything when you play a note on a musical instrument (assuming they really are totally deaf). A colour-blind person sees something when they look at a green tile on a blue background - so the non-colour-blind person is intrigued by the difference in perception. A much closer analogy would be, “It’s like asking a tone deaf person to notice the difference between two notes you’re playing on a musical instrument”. They are perceiving something, but there is a component of perception that is missing, in a way that might be interesting to discuss (depending on the context and the people involved).

I would suggest that the sense of intrigue is, in and of itself, natural, healthy, understandable and inoffensive. It can and should be expressed or handled in a way that doesn’t upset anyone. When we learn that an individual’s perception of the wider world is significantly different from our own, or than whatever is commonplace or ordinary, it gives rise to understandable fascination. People happily discuss these differences all the time. I myself have next to no visual imagination or mental cinema screen, so it’s next to impossible for me to ‘visualise’ something or retain visual impressions. But I can absorb linear and textual information by the bucketload. It’s just a case of being wired up differently, and while I don’t attach any importance to it at all, I don’t mind discussing it.

I used to work with someone who was colour-blind, and yes, the subject came up a couple of times and we talked about it. As I recall, he didn’t mind in the slightest.

That’s exactly how my colorblindness is. Technically, I’m red/green colorblind. But, I can see bright colors just fine. Dark red and dark green both look brown to me.

When I get the question, I usually answer the color correctly then I start pointing at as many different red and green things in the room and properly identify them as the correct colors until the person gets the idea and understands that it’s a question I’ve heard a thousand times.

I seldom get “The Question”. What I get is 10 minutes of “You can’t be colorblind - you’re a woman!” followed by 20 minutes of fumbling, incoherent and inaccurate ramblings about sex-linked genetic traits with an occasional sprinkling of “did you start life as a man and have an operation?”


THEN, maybe, I get the question but I think mostly by that time folks are worn out and too tired to ask. Or I’ve punched them in the nose from Great Annoyance.

Not that question, no. But I can probably be counted upon to ask questions. I’ll want to know if it’s complete colourblindness, red/green, purple/blue or whatever or something else. I might ask “So, can you distinguish between X and Y?”. If the inability to do so would seem to make life difficult, I might ask how they cope.

Would the above be rude? Should I stop doing it? Should I flagellate myself for having done it? I’ve got the flail right here, just say the word.