Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Hailie from Riverdale, MI. Hailie Wonders, “Do people see colors different then other people?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Hailie!
Isn’t our world a colorful place? Just look outside. Do you see vibrant green grass? A deep blue sky? Maybe you notice bright orange leaves in the fall or lovely purple flowers in the spring. Yes, most people agree that the Earth is a WONDERfully beautiful place to live.
Do we all see the same world, though? Maybe that sounds like a crazy question! But that hasn’t stopped experts from asking it. In fact, new research makes some scientists believe that people may not always see the same colors when they look at the same things.
How is that possible? Experts believe that color perception may not be predetermined. Instead, it may be shaped by the world and our experiences in it. They say that factors such as mood, feelings, and memories can affect our perception of colors.
To fully understand, let’s look at how people see color. Inside the human eye, there are two types of cells that respond to light—cones and rods. In bright light, cones help people see color. Wavelengths of light bouncing off an object activate the cones. Those cells then send signals to the brain. When the brain receives these signals, the person sees the object’s color.
Rods, on the other hand, are activated in dim light or darkness. The rods don’t see color. They only signal the brain in shades of gray. Still, people see the colors of some objects in dim light because their brains have memories of those same objects in bright light. This proves that the colors people see aren’t only determined by wavelengths of light or our cells. They can be affected by our memories and other perceptions.
Of course, experts already have other proof that not all people see colors the same. People who have colorblindness are missing some cone cells. They may have a hard time distinguishing between colors like red, green, brown, and orange. Other people may have additional cones that help them see an even broader range of colors. Some experts call these people tetrachromats.
Think of the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever beheld. Now, imagine a person is standing next to you taking in the same sight. Looking at the horizon, you agree that you see the color orange. But is your “orange” the same as theirs? Their “orange” could be your blue, yellow, or green. Isn’t that amazing? What other incredible sights might look different to someone else?
Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS1.D, NGSS.PS4.B, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2