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Lewis Forder, Gary Lupyan; Facilitation of color discrimination by verbal and visual cues. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):393. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.393.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
People can distinguish millions of hues, but often refer to colors categorically using linguistic terms that denote large regions of color space. We hypothesized that color names warp color representations making them more categorical such that simply hearing a color name would induce more categorical color perception. We tested this hypothesis by examining how cuing color verbally (Exps. 1, 2) or visually (Exp. 3) affected people's ability to distinguish colors at various locations in color space. We predicted that hearing a color name (e.g., "blue") would transiently facilitate perceptually discriminating between blues and non-blues. If the label activates a more categorical color representation it should also, counterintuitively, help in distinguishing more typical blues from less typical blues, but not highly typical blues and slightly less typical blues. We conducted three experiments (N=85) to test these hypotheses. After locating each participant's focal colors and color boundaries, we tested color discrimination using a 4-alternative odd-one out task maintaining a constant perceptual distance between target and non-targets in CIELUV space. Hearing a color name of the target immediately prior to the color display improved overall performance from M=79.6% to M=86.1% (z=9.6, p< .0001) compared to trials on uncued trials. Verbal cues facilitated visual discrimination only when the target and non-targets spanned a category boundary, and in discriminating more from less typical colors. Exp. 2 showed that color names improved discrimination performance even when categories were blocked making the cues redundant. Exp. 3 showed that facilitation from visual color cues was significantly smaller than from verbal cues, suggesting that words are especially effective in activating categorical color representations. Overall, our results suggest that processing color names affects the ability to distinguish colors and that the extent to which we perceive colors categorically may be flexible and depend on the current task
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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