Abstract

Conventional models of color vision assume that blue and yellow (along with red and green) are the fundamental building blocks of color appearance, yet how these hues are represented in the brain and whether and why they might be special are questions that remain shrouded in mystery. Many studies have explored the visual encoding of color categories, from the statistics of the environment to neural processing to perceptual experience. Blue and yellow are tied to salient features of the natural color world, and these features have likely shaped several important aspects of color vision. However, it remains less certain that these dimensions are encoded as primary or “unique” in the visual representation of color. There are also striking differences between blue and yellow percepts that may reflect high-level inferences about the world, specifically about the colors of light and surfaces. Moreover, while the stimuli labeled as blue or yellow or other basic categories show a remarkable degree of constancy within the observer, they all vary independently of one another across observers. This pattern of variation again suggests that blue and yellow and red and green are not a primary or unitary dimension of color appearance, and instead suggests a representation in which different hues reflect qualitatively different categories rather than quantitative differences within an underlying low-dimensional “color space.”

© 2020 Optical Society of America

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