Colors on the brain

Mind-reading scientists know what color you’re seeing

Scientists have become mind-readers...but only for predicting what color someone is looking at.

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In a new paper, a team of scientists studying color perception found that they could predict what color a study participant was looking at just based on patterns of brain activity.

JoAnna Wendel

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Different cultures have different ways of describing colors, but generally, many cultures have more words to describe warm hues (like yellow and orange) than cool hues (like blue and green).

The researchers were interested in finding out how color perception related to how humans describe color.

JoAnna Wendel

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So they outfitted study participants with sensors that detect tiny magnetic fields that accompany brain activity.

Participants looked at swirly designs in light and dark hues — light and dark pink, orange, blue, and green.

JoAnna Wendel

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Participants’ brains produced unique patterns when looking at each color.

So unique, in fact, that the researchers could accurately predict which color each participant was viewing.

JoAnna Wendel

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The team also found that brain patterns varied more when participants were looking at warm hues versus cold hues.

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This finding suggests that the reason why humans have more words for warm hues is rooted in how the brain perceives colors rather than culture or language.

Read more mind and body stories here.

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