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01-01-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 1/2015

Psychological Research 1/2015

On the purposes of color for living beings: toward a theory of color organization

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research > Uitgave 1/2015
Auteurs:
Baingio Pinna, Adam Reeves

Abstract

Phylogenetic and paleontological evidence indicates that in the animal kingdom the ability to perceive colors evolved independently several times over the course of millennia. This implies a high evolutionary neural investment and suggests that color vision provides some fundamental biological benefits. What are these benefits? Why are some animals so colorful? What are the adaptive and perceptual meanings of polychromatism? We suggest that in addition to the discrimination of light and surface chromaticity, sensitivity to color contributes to the whole, the parts and the fragments of perceptual organization. New versions of neon color spreading and the watercolor illusion indicate that the visual purpose of color in humans is threefold: to inter-relate each chromatic component of an object, thus favoring the emergence of the whole; to support a part–whole organization in which components reciprocally enhance each other by amodal completion; and, paradoxically, to reveal fragments and hide the whole—that is, there is a chromatic parceling-out process of separation, division, and fragmentation of the whole. The evolution of these contributions of color to organization needs to be established, but traces of it can be found in Harlequin camouflage by animals and in the coloration of flowers.

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