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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2000 Sep;129(3):369-98.

Color categories are not universal: replications and new evidence from a stone-age culture.

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  • 1Goldsmiths' College, University of London, England.


The authors sought to replicate and extend the work of E. Rosch Heider (1972) on the Dani with a comparable group from Papua, New Guinea, who speak Berinmo, which has 5 basic color terms. Naming and memory for highly saturated focal, non-focal, and low-saturation stimuli from around the color space were investigated. Recognition of desaturated colors was affected by color vocabulary. When response bias was controlled, there was no recognition advantage for focal stimuli. Paired-associate learning also failed to show an advantage for focal stimuli. Categorical Perception effects for both English and Berinmo were found, but only at the boundaries of existing linguistic categories. It is concluded that possession of linguistic categories facilitates recognition and influences perceptual judgments.

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