What the majority of animals can see everyday are the colours of objects. One may see the sky blue while the other sees it grey, but it does not change the fact that the objects differ in ‘colour’ and it can be distinguished. Humans are known to be one of the mammals that are able to see the most number of colours, so we are able to see the objects more diversely. 

Then if some animals see more diverse properties of an object and others are seeing less, would it mean that the property of the object changes by animal or that some animals are not distinguishing the object fully?

The answer is no, as colour is not a property of the object but merely a subjective visage that creatures perceive. Even when a certain species are able to see the same number of colours, the hue and the tone that the creatures perceive are actually different, which indicates that no object has a ‘definite’ colour. This proves that colour is more from how one perceives.

Humans see the light colour that is made of Red, Green, and Blue, which is different from the known combination of Red, Yellow Blue(specifically cyan, magenta, and yellow). The colours that we see are the light ‘reflected’ from the surface, not the light that is absorbed. For example, if we are seeing red, green and blue light would have been absorbed, and if we are seeing yellow, blue light is absorbed. Like this pattern, white occurs when all the lights are reflected, and black occurs when the lights are absorbed. 

Then how come some animals perceive more or less colours?

Let’s take dogs as an example. Unlike humans, dogs are known to only be able to see the colour blue, yellow, white, and black. They ‘see’ colours as humans do, but the difference occurs in their sensory cells. 

Colours originate from the brain as when light is caught by the eye, the sensory cells send the signal to the brain and the brain determines the colour. The different colours are seen as light has different wavelengths, and when they are absorbed from the eye to the sensory cells, the ability for sensory cells to detect the different  wavelength differ by species. The conclusion of colour is decided by the brain, which concludes that colour is no more perception. 

Then when there are animals that are only able to see less colours than humans, there are of course animals that are able to see more colours. 

Birds are known to be one of the species that see the most number of colours. They are able to not only see the colours humans can see, but also colours from being able to see parts in the ultra-violet spectrum and more specific wavelengths. This helps them to discern camaflauging insects and animals, which is mainly to find food easily. 

Like this, the reality of what we see, colours, is not truly a property and differ by individual and widely by species.

Seung Yeon (Sophie) Shin
Seung Yeon (Sophie) Shin

Member of NLCS Jeju
Member of Lucidity


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