December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
Color categorization in macaques
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Audrey LY Chang
    National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Hannah M Selwyn
    National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Daniel Garside
    National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Joshua Fuller-Deets
    National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Shriya M Awasthi
    National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Bevil R Conway
    National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  Intramural research program at the National Eye Institute (NEI)
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 3979. doi:
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      Audrey LY Chang, Hannah M Selwyn, Daniel Garside, Joshua Fuller-Deets, Shriya M Awasthi, Bevil R Conway; Color categorization in macaques. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):3979.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Categorization is a hallmark of high-level cognition, studied extensively with color. Across cultures, color categorization shows universal patterns, suggesting innate mechanisms, and variability, indicative of learning. One popular idea is that all languages show evidence of four basic color categories (red, green, blue, yellow), and variability is achieved by elaboration of these categories (e.g., reddish-yellow=orange). How are colors categorized independent of language? We explored this question by measuring color categorization in macaque monkeys, a primate species with the same retinal color-encoding mechanisms as humans. We used a 4-Alternative-Forced-Choice color-matching task in 3 monkeys over 6 months. They initiated each trial by fixating on a small spot on a monitor. A colored disk (cue) was presented at a parafoveal location. On a subsequent frame, animals were rewarded for distinguishing with an eye movement the matching colored disc from three foils shown. Colors were 64 equally spaced hues, of equal saturation and luminance (CIELUV). Attractor points (“category centers”) were defined as hue angles towards which incorrect choices were biased. Pooled data across all three monkeys show two strong color categories (31±11°, “orange”; 207±5°, “blue”), which are evident in all 3 monkeys individually (monkey 1: 46±11°, 206±8°, 76,121 trials; monkey 2: 21±36°, 201±5°, 54,508 trials; monkey 3: 359±21°, 232±87°, 26,038 trials). The pooled data also show an emerging category (113±14°, “yellow”) significant only in one animal. These results suggest that trichromatic primates innately categorize colors into two essential categories (warm vs. cool colors), and that additional color categories reflect differences in color use across species and cultures.


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