Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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The structure of color experience and the existence of surface colors

Color experience is structured. Some ‘unique’ colors (red, green, yellow and blue) appear a ‘pure’, or containing no trace of any other color. Others can be considered as a mixture of these colors, or as ‘binary colors’. According to a widespread assumption, this unique/binary structure of color experience is to be explained in terms of neurophysiological structuring (e.g. by opponent processes) and it has no genuine explanatory basis in the physical stimulus. The argument from structure builds on these assumptions to argue that colors are not properties of surfaces and that color experiences are neural processes without environmental counterpart. We reconsider the argument both in terms of its logic and in the light of recent models in vision science which point at environment-involving patterns that may be at the basis of the unique/binary structure of color experience. We conclude that, in the light of internal and external problems which arise for it, the argument from structure should be rejected.