9. Perceiving color

Color is a fascinating perceptual quality, and almost everyone interested in vision during the last few centuries—Newton in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; Young, Maxell, Helmholtz, Mach, and even Goethe in the nineteenth century; and a host of investigators in the twentieth century—has wrestled with it. The extraordinary effort to rationalize color vision is ironic because color vision is not very important biologically: Many animals (dogs and cats, for example) have little color vision, and people with most forms of “color blindness” have only minor problems getting along in life.

What is color vision, and why have some species (including ours) gone to the trouble of evolving it? The perceptions of lightness and ...

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