Sensation and perception of colors is the human ability to differentiate diverse spectral properties of lights or objects. The ability of the eyes to sense colors and the mental capacity to perceive certain colors depends on the brightness of the colors on objects. According to color vision theories, “…trichromacy, opponency adaptation, and color constancy are the elements that determine color sensation and perception in human vision system” (Brainard, 2001, p.3).
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Trichromacy is spectral power distribution of the perceived lights, opponency is neuronal response, and adaptation is conditional variation of colors, while constancy is the subjectivity of color perception. With respect to these elements, experiment conducted shows that perception set affects the sensation and perception of colors.
In an experiment to illustrate perception set, three subjects observed a room and noted anything and everything that was brown. After a minute of observation, the subjects closed their eyes and named other colors that were in the room. The results of the experiment showed that the subjects mentioned dominant and bright colors that were in the room and others that were not in the room. The colors mentioned were red, green, yellow, orange, black, grey, white, pink, and blue.
What was amazing about the results is that, the subjects started by mentioning bright colors and background colors such as red, green, grey, and white. Although they had observed the room, they took time thinking about the colors before mentioning them. Furthermore, they even mentioned colors that were not in the room signifying that they imagined colors in a typical room. The discrepancy between observed colors and the mentioned colors is due to the psychological influence called perception set.
Sensory and perception of colors is a complex process that involves selections of colors by the eyes and interpretation of the observed colors by the brain. The photoreceptors in retina sense colors and relay the stimuli through optic nerves into the brain where perception takes place.
Perception involves processing of optic neural stimuli in terms of shape, color, location, movement, or spatial orientation. Brainard argues that, “…the perception of movement, depth, perspective, the relative size of objects, the relative movement of objects, shading, and gradations in textures all depend primarily on the contrasts in light intensity rather than on color” (2001, p. 16).
Thus, trichromacy as an element describing spectral power distribution of colors within visible spectrum determines the perception of colors. According to perception set theory, there is biasness and subjectivity in perception of colors due to the expectation of the observers and context of observation. In the experiment, the perception set occurred because the subjects had preference in noting bright colors while ignoring dull colors. Moreover, the psychological expectations made them to mention colors that were not in the room.
Brainard, D. (2001). Sensation and Perception: Color Vision Theory. Journal of Psychology, 2, 1-32.