Basic color categories are thought to share a common pattern across linguistic groups, yet the focal colors defining those categories can vary substantially within any single group. We asked whether focal colors can also differ systematically across different groups of individuals living in potentially different color environments, by measuring focal and unique hues for observers in India and the United States. Differences between groups were generally small relative to the within-group variations, consistent with a strong common basis for color naming across diverse contexts. However, for most hues the average settings differed significantly across subpopulations. These differences persisted across testing conditions and thus probably reflect longer-term contextual influences on color appearance judgments. They suggest that while color categories may be qualitatively similar, precisely how the hue spectrum is parsed may differ quantitatively across different populations of observers. Both the between-group and the within-group differences are inconsistent with the differences predicted by common peripheral sources of variation in color vision (e.g., in lens or macular pigment) and may reflect an influence of environmental or cultural differences in focal color choices.
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