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Colour is in the eye of the beholder

Colour is in the eye of the beholder

(7:56) Do you see what I see? Apparently, colour vision is not something you are born with. Fascinating BBC Horizon clip shows the link between colour and language, as demonstrated by tests with the Himba tribe of Namibia.

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Guest: BaffledBiologist (1450 days ago)
Interesting - But they may have the correlation exactly the wrong way round. If the Himba have a different genetic history from those of us in the west, then they may not have the same colour perception due to spectrum sensitive cones in the eye. This means that they may physically be unable to distinguish easily between certain colours. If that is the case, then they will have developed less words for the colours that they can see. Not the limited vocabulary meaning that they cannot see the difference - But the limited difference means a limited vocabulary.
Original comment
Interesting - But they may have the correlation exactly the wrong way round. If the Himba have a different genetic history from those of us in the west, then they may not have the same colour perception due to spectrum sensitive cones in the eye. This means that they may physically be unable to distinguish easily between certain colours. If that is the case, then they will have developed less words for the colours that they can see. Not the limited vocabulary meaning that they cannot see the difference - But the limited difference means a limited vocabulary.
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Guest: (1449 days ago)
I agree totally. You're hypothesis seems far simpler and therefore far more likely (Occam's razor)
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I agree totally. You're hypothesis seems far simpler and therefore far more likely (Occam's razor)
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Guest: (914 days ago)
Agreed!
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Agreed!
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Guest: Orenn (249 days ago)

That's not plausible, because westerners can't see the different green tone. If your reasoning were correct, then the same explanation would have been applicable to westerners.

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That's not plausible, because westerners can't see the different green tone. If your reasoning were correct, then the same explanation would have been applicable to westerners.

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Guest: (178 days ago)

I'm a westerner and I can see the difference. It is subtle but when I scrolled down (and each time I scroll down), the different green square pops out for me immediately. Strangely, the longer I look at it, the less different it looks until I can no longer tell the difference. Interestingly, Chinese has an ancient color word that means both "sky blue" and "grass green", as though they saw them as being the same long ago. Modern Chinese still lacks a distinct word for "cyan" though sometimes it is now translated as that same ancient word.

Original comment

I'm a westerner and I can see the difference. It is subtle but when I scrolled down (and each time I scroll down), the different green square pops out for me immediately. Strangely, the longer I look at it, the less different it looks until I can no longer tell the difference. Interestingly, Chinese has an ancient color word that means both "sky blue" and "grass green", as though they saw them as being the same long ago. Modern Chinese still lacks a distinct word for "cyan" though sometimes it is now translated as that same ancient word.

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Guest: (178 days ago)

I'm a westerner and I can see the difference. It is subtle but when I scrolled down (and each time I scroll down), the different green square pops out for me immediately. Strangely, the longer I look at it, the less different it looks until I can no longer tell the difference.

Original comment

I'm a westerner and I can see the difference. It is subtle but when I scrolled down (and each time I scroll down), the different green square pops out for me immediately. Strangely, the longer I look at it, the less different it looks until I can no longer tell the difference.

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Guest: (514 days ago)

You are correct that this would be a less complicated explanation, but it is also an easily testable one. I highly doubt that this hasn't been tested for. Also the Himba aren't genetically isolated enough from other humans to diverge that much from us/other South African tribes. Also the Himba aren't the only tribe that have been studied concerning colour perception and language, a good place to start with how the debate has been going on is the Wikipedia article for "Linguistic relativity and the color naming debate"

Original comment

You are correct that this would be a less complicated explanation, but it is also an easily testable one. I highly doubt that this hasn't been tested for. Also the Himba aren't genetically isolated enough from other humans to diverge that much from us/other South African tribes. Also the Himba aren't the only tribe that have been studied concerning colour perception and language, a good place to start with how the debate has been going on is the Wikipedia article for "Linguistic relativity and the color naming debate"

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Guest: TinyNads (1449 days ago)
And are we all colourblind when we cannot easily distinguish between the two green colours that they can distinguish quite easily? I think the point of the two experiments removes a colour blind gene possibility from the equation. Real colourblind people have the language, but still cannot distinguish certain colours easily. I think what is being suggested is that due to the words we use for different colours, the brain developes to differentiate those colours from each other. The brains of the Namibian tribe have developed to emphasise different boundaries to differentiate the colours that their language describes. What an interesting subject!
Original comment
And are we all colourblind when we cannot easily distinguish between the two green colours that they can distinguish quite easily? I think the point of the two experiments removes a colour blind gene possibility from the equation. Real colourblind people have the language, but still cannot distinguish certain colours easily. I think what is being suggested is that due to the words we use for different colours, the brain developes to differentiate those colours from each other. The brains of the Namibian tribe have developed to emphasise different boundaries to differentiate the colours that their language describes. What an interesting subject!
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Guest: Emery G. (299 days ago)

I thought colorblindness is predominately found in men, with the rare occasion of a woman being colorblind. That would throw out a theory for colorblindness being the culprit in the case of the Himba color perception.

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I thought colorblindness is predominately found in men, with the rare occasion of a woman being colorblind. That would throw out a theory for colorblindness being the culprit in the case of the Himba color perception.

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Guest: jam (1445 days ago)
colour is on a wheel, (i.e. green = blue plus yellow, etc). Colour is actually on a linear spectrum, not a wheel. The two are incompatible. This is basically the same effect - our colour vision is a construct.
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colour is on a wheel, (i.e. green = blue plus yellow, etc). Colour is actually on a linear spectrum, not a wheel. The two are incompatible. This is basically the same effect - our colour vision is a construct.
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Guest: vanhetgoor (665 days ago)
It there is a tone of let's say 440 Hz and a tone of 400 Hz, then a tone of 40 Hz can be heard. The same goes with light. On a bleu wall red light look dark brown. On a yellow wall bleu light looks green. Light filtered though coloured glass gives an other colour, but maybe there are some people who can sense some of the original basic colours, like mixing is with audio tones. Maybe colour is a symphony of different sorts of light, not a linear spectrum of up going frequencies, maybe that the view of frequencies is only theoretical. Maybe there is more then we can see!
Original comment
It there is a tone of let's say 440 Hz and a tone of 400 Hz, then a tone of 40 Hz can be heard. The same goes with light. On a bleu wall red light look dark brown. On a yellow wall bleu light looks green. Light filtered though coloured glass gives an other colour, but maybe there are some people who can sense some of the original basic colours, like mixing is with audio tones. Maybe colour is a symphony of different sorts of light, not a linear spectrum of up going frequencies, maybe that the view of frequencies is only theoretical. Maybe there is more then we can see!
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Guest: (198 days ago)

Why do they keep forgettng the obvious.

The youngest child doesn't process via concepts (discrete concepts)

the next child up, the 3 year has been condition to measure and conceptualise what they see (not just sensate). Is this Food, Is this up or Down. OF COURSE, the process is going to go left brain, because now their is a conscious mind asking "what is this I am observing", and building pattern structures for all sensual input. Those structures are already known to be adaptive, although the limits of those adpation processes is not known (and far more worthy of research than the obvious).

The newborn hasn't had experiences enough for the brain to have conceptual patterns yet - these are learned through an adapt with lines up with what is later called "science" (just as it used to adpat to obsedience known as religious obedience). Science is measurement and assessment through repetition and repeatability. The brain given repeated sensations, learns to categorise them by simularity (on of the first is the familiar tones of Mums voice), it builds on these by association. (Mum's voice, is connected to Mum outlines. then to Mum behaviours, and Mums colours (colours earlier if she always wore the same colour, but you risk alienating the child by changing when the pattern is embedded)

Original comment

Why do they keep forgettng the obvious.

The youngest child doesn't process via concepts (discrete concepts)

the next child up, the 3 year has been condition to measure and conceptualise what they see (not just sensate). Is this Food, Is this up or Down. OF COURSE, the process is going to go left brain, because now their is a conscious mind asking "what is this I am observing", and building pattern structures for all sensual input. Those structures are already known to be adaptive, although the limits of those adpation processes is not known (and far more worthy of research than the obvious).

The newborn hasn't had experiences enough for the brain to have conceptual patterns yet - these are learned through an adapt with lines up with what is later called "science" (just as it used to adpat to obsedience known as religious obedience). Science is measurement and assessment through repetition and repeatability. The brain given repeated sensations, learns to categorise them by simularity (on of the first is the familiar tones of Mums voice), it builds on these by association. (Mum's voice, is connected to Mum outlines. then to Mum behaviours, and Mums colours (colours earlier if she always wore the same colour, but you risk alienating the child by changing when the pattern is embedded)

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Guest: Catherine (131 days ago)

You obviously have original and interesting thoughts, but I find it challenging to take you seriously when even the simplest words are misspelled and your sentence have basic capitalization errors. You lose credibility even though your ideas may have merrit.

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You obviously have original and interesting thoughts, but I find it challenging to take you seriously when even the simplest words are misspelled and your sentence have basic capitalization errors. You lose credibility even though your ideas may have merrit.

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Guest: Nahor Besawog (114 days ago)

Now Catherine, is it merit or merrit? I also lose credibility in you.

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Now Catherine, is it merit or merrit? I also lose credibility in you.

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Guest: (1449 days ago)
I couldn't see the different green one at all, but I did see 3 nipples during the documentary! RESULT
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I couldn't see the different green one at all, but I did see 3 nipples during the documentary! RESULT
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Guest: Bollo (1449 days ago)
It sucks that you have to watch an ad just to add a comment or vote in the polls.
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It sucks that you have to watch an ad just to add a comment or vote in the polls.
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Guest: one more time (114 days ago)
Latest comment:

I assume everyone is viewing this on a computer display. Displays are designed for western eyes, and it is a bit of a perceptual trick. They would look wrong to eyes that can see other than our standard RGB. For instance, bees see ultraviolet, which is missing from our displays, and animals like dogs see fewer colours than humans do, so what they see on a display is anyone's guess. If the Himba see other colours, you can't compare them with us by using a standard display.

Original comment
Latest comment:

I assume everyone is viewing this on a computer display. Displays are designed for western eyes, and it is a bit of a perceptual trick. They would look wrong to eyes that can see other than our standard RGB. For instance, bees see ultraviolet, which is missing from our displays, and animals like dogs see fewer colours than humans do, so what they see on a display is anyone's guess. If the Himba see other colours, you can't compare them with us by using a standard display.

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Guest: Kamikaze (1449 days ago)
It could be cultural as well...for a tribe that depends greatly on hunting, for example, being able to distinguish varying shades of what we call "green" is highlyuseful, so their descriptions of colour would reflect that. A follow-up test to this would be to "adopt" a Himba infant and do the same tests 5 years later...this would rule out the genetics element.
Original comment
It could be cultural as well...for a tribe that depends greatly on hunting, for example, being able to distinguish varying shades of what we call "green" is highlyuseful, so their descriptions of colour would reflect that. A follow-up test to this would be to "adopt" a Himba infant and do the same tests 5 years later...this would rule out the genetics element.
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Guest: (1449 days ago)
Maybe the entire tribe is color blind.
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Maybe the entire tribe is color blind.
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Guest: John (1447 days ago)
Why not, there's a whole tribe of 300m in the USA that can't spell "colour" correctly.
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Why not, there's a whole tribe of 300m in the USA that can't spell "colour" correctly.
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Guest: (716 days ago)
We're sorry that we're not French, the 300 million of us apologize profusely.
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We're sorry that we're not French, the 300 million of us apologize profusely.
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Guest: asdd (654 days ago)
it's spelled that way by the British and in turn Canadians, dumbass
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it's spelled that way by the British and in turn Canadians, dumbass
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Guest: Kinboat (644 days ago)
Most words that end in -our in England are spelled that way since the Norman conquest to reflect the Old French pronunciation.
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Most words that end in -our in England are spelled that way since the Norman conquest to reflect the Old French pronunciation.
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Guest: bexx (572 days ago)

One's a bigger dumbass if one cant distinguish between a joke and a real coumment. But then, that makes it all the more entertaining. =D

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One's a bigger dumbass if one cant distinguish between a joke and a real coumment. But then, that makes it all the more entertaining. =D

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Guest: Stevovo1980 (848 days ago)
Oh MY God when will people start reading outside their own disciplines. THis idea is about FIFTY years old in linguistic anthropology. And has been partially disproven.
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Oh MY God when will people start reading outside their own disciplines. THis idea is about FIFTY years old in linguistic anthropology. And has been partially disproven.
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Guest: Nahor Besawog (114 days ago)

I've grown up at a farm and would state that other colours are not so common in Himbas immediate environment but try a well educated Himba child and believe me 'he/she will differenciate the colours even if it means in English. I think there is also an element of lack of formal education perhaps.

Original comment

I've grown up at a farm and would state that other colours are not so common in Himbas immediate environment but try a well educated Himba child and believe me 'he/she will differenciate the colours even if it means in English. I think there is also an element of lack of formal education perhaps.

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