A critical review of the experimental foundation of human color perception

by Joseph J. Sheppard

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A presentation of the minimum material needed for a comprehensive study of normal human color perception. The artificial nature of colorimetry is discussed, with emphasis on the distinction between experimental facts established in the matching experiments and the formalism of colorimetry derived in part form these facts. A representative protion of the available experimental data on individual foveal spectral sensitivity is collected and analyzed. Data on the initial photoreception process and the anatomy, histology, morphology, ontogeny, and electrophysiology of the retinal neurons are analyzed, noting the multiplicity of results indicating a fundamental difference between receptor mechanisms in the rods and cones. A review of data on central neural mechanisms indicates a complex, dynamic role for the lateral geniculate nuclei in human color vision. Considerations of diverse psychophysiological phenomena are summarized. The general conclusion of the study is that the available experimental evidence does not clearly dictate the fundamental physiological processes mediating human color vision. Principal conclusions are discussed in relation to the three distinct fields of colorimetry, visual biophysics, and visual psychophysics. Four suggestions are given for psychophysical modelling.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research memorandum series. The Research Memorandum was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1973 that represented working papers meant to report current results of RAND research to appropriate audiences.

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