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Vis Neurosci. 2008 May-Jun;25(3):475-80. doi: 10.1017/S0952523808080486.

The color of night: surface color categorization by color defective observers under dim illuminations.

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Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Science, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


People with normal trichromatic color vision experience variegated hue percepts under dim illuminations where only rod photoreceptors mediate vision. Here, hue perceptions were determined for persons with congenital color vision deficiencies over a wide range of light levels, including very low light levels where rods alone mediate vision. Deuteranomalous trichromats, deuteranopes and protanopes served as observers. The appearances of 24 paper color samples from the OSA Uniform Color Scales were gauged under successively dimmer illuminations from 10 to 0.0003 Lux (1.0 to -3.5 log Lux). Triads of samples were chosen representing each of eight basic color categories; "red," "pink," "orange," "yellow," "green," "blue," "purple," and "gray." Samples within each triad varied in lightness. Observers sorted samples into groups that they could categorize with specific color names. Above -0.5 log Lux, the dichromatic and anomalous trichromatic observers sorted the samples into the original representative color groups, with some exceptions. At light levels where rods alone mediate vision, the color names assigned by the deuteranomalous trichromats were similar to the color names used by color normals; higher scotopic reflectance samples were classified as blue-green-grey and lower reflectance samples as red-orange. Color names reported by the dichromats at the dimmest light levels had extensive overlap in their sample scotopic lightness distributions. Dichromats did not assign scotopic color names based on the sample scotopic lightness, as did deuteranomalous trichromats and colour-normals. We reasoned that the reduction in color gamut that a dichromat experiences at photopic light levels leads to a limited association of rod color perception with objects differing in scotopic reflectance.

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