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Curr Biol. 2000 Jun 29;10(13):805-8.

Sensory and cognitive contributions of color to the recognition of natural scenes.

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Max-Planck-Institute für biologische Kybernetik, Tübingen, Germany.


Although color plays a prominent part in our subjective experience of the visual world, the evolutionary advantage of color vision is still unclear [1] [2], with most current answers pointing towards specialized uses, for example to detect ripe fruit amongst foliage [3] [4] [5] [6]. We investigated whether color has a more general role in visual recognition by looking at the contribution of color to the encoding and retrieval processes involved in pattern recognition [7] [8] [9]. Recognition accuracy was higher for color images of natural scenes than for luminance-matched black and white images, and color information contributed to both components of the recognition process. Initially, color leads to an image-coding advantage at the very early stages of sensory processing, most probably by easing the image-segmentation task. Later, color leads to an advantage in retrieval, presumably as the result of an enhanced image representation in memory due to the additional attribute. Our results ascribe color vision a general role in the processing of visual form, starting at the very earliest stages of analysis: color helps us to recognize things faster and to remember them better.

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