Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Color theory


What determines how languages categorize colors? We analyzed results of the World Color Survey (WCS) of 110 languages to show that despite gross differences across languages, communication of chromatic chips is always better for warm colors (yellows/reds) than cool colors (blues/greens). We present an analysis of color statistics in a large databank of natural images curated by human observers for salient objects and show that objects tend to have warm rather than cool colors. These results suggest that the cross-linguistic similarity in color-naming efficiency reflects colors of universal usefulness and provide an account of a principle (color use) that governs how color categories come about. We show that potential methodological issues with the WCS do not corrupt information-theoretic analyses, by collecting original data using two extreme versions of the color-naming task, in three groups: the Tsimane', a remote Amazonian hunter-gatherer isolate; Bolivian-Spanish speakers; and English speakers. These data also enabled us to test another prediction of the color-usefulness hypothesis: that differences in color categorization between languages are caused by differences in overall usefulness of color to a culture. In support, we found that color naming among Tsimane' had relatively low communicative efficiency, and the Tsimane' were less likely to use color terms when describing familiar objects. Color-naming among Tsimane' was boosted when naming artificially colored objects compared with natural objects, suggesting that industrialization promotes color usefulness.

Concepts: Scientific method, Color, Categorization, Communication, Color theory, Names, Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution, Linguistic relativity and the color naming debate


Subwavelength structural color filtering and printing technologies employing plasmonic nanostructures have recently been recognized as an important and beneficial complement to the traditional colorant-based pigmentation. However, the color saturation, brightness and incident angle tolerance of structural color printing need to be improved to meet the application requirement. Here we demonstrate a structural color printing method based on plasmonic metasurfaces of perfect light absorption to improve color performances such as saturation and brightness. Thin-layer perfect absorbers with periodic hole arrays are designed at visible frequencies and the absorption peaks are tuned by simply adjusting the hole size and periodicity. Near perfect light absorption with high quality factors are obtained to realize high-resolution, angle-insensitive plasmonic color printing with high color saturation and brightness. Moreover, the fabricated metasurfaces can be protected with a protective coating for ambient use without degrading performances. The demonstrated structural color printing platform offers great potential for applications ranging from security marking to information storage.

Concepts: Photon, Electromagnetic radiation, Color, Printing, Hue, Visible spectrum, Color theory, Colorfulness


Metal halides perovskites, such as hybrid organic-inorganic CH3NH3PbI3, are newcomer optoelectronic materials that have attracted enormous attention as solution-deposited absorbing layers in solar cells with power conversion efficiencies reaching 20%. Herein we demonstrate a new avenue for halide perovskties by designing perovskite-based quantum dot materials. We have synthesized monodisperse, colloidal nanocubes (4-15 nm edge lengths) of fully inorganic cesium lead halide perovskites (CsPbX3, X=Cl, Br, I or mixed halide systems Cl/Br and Br/I) using inexpensive commercial precursors. Through compositional modulations and quantum size-effects, the bandgap energies and emission spectra are readily tunable over the entire visible spectral region of 410-700 nm. The photoluminescence of CsPbX3 nanocrystals is characterized by narrow emission line-widths of 12-42 nm, wide color gamut covering up to 140% of the NTSC color standard, high quantum yields of up to 90% and radiative lifetimes in the range of 4-29 ns. The compelling combination of enhanced optical properties and chemical robustness makes CsPbX3 nanocrystals appealing for optoelectronic applications, particularly for blue and green spectral regions (410-530 nm), where typical metal chalcogenide-based quantum dots suffer from photodegradation.

Concepts: Quantum dot, Color, Solar cell, Light-emitting diode, Color space, Band gap, Color theory, Gamut


Perceptual color space is continuous; however, we tend to divide it into only a small number of categories. It is unclear whether categorical color perception is obtained solely through the development of the visual system or whether it is affected by language acquisition. To address this issue, we recruited prelinguistic infants (5- to 7-mo-olds) to measure changes in brain activity in relation to categorical color differences by using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). We presented two sets of geometric figures to infants: One set altered in color between green and blue, and the other set altered between two different shades of green. We found a significant increase in hemodynamic responses during the between-category alternations, but not during the within-category alternations. These differences in hemodynamic response based on categorical relationship were observed only in the bilateral occipitotemporal regions, and not in the occipital region. We confirmed that categorical color differences yield behavioral differences in infants. We also observed comparable hemodynamic responses to categorical color differences in adults. The present study provided the first evidence, to our knowledge, that colors of different categories are represented differently in the visual cortex of prelinguistic infants, which implies that color categories may develop independently before language acquisition.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Visual perception, Color, Occipital lobe, Near infrared spectroscopy, Color theory


Electrochromic polymers (ECPs) have been shown to be synthetically tunable, producing a full palette of vibrantly colored to highly transmissive polymers. The development of these colored-to-transmissive ECPs employed synthetic design strategies for broad color targeting; however, due to the subtleties of color perception and the intricacies of polymer structure and color relationships, fine color control is difficult. In contrast, color mixing is a well-established practice in the printing industry. We have identified three colored-to-transmissive switching electrochromic polymers, referred to as ECP-Cyan (ECP-C), ECP-Magenta (ECP-M), and ECP-Yellow (ECP-Y), which, via the co-processing of multicomponent ECP mixtures, follow the CMY color mixing model. The presented work qualitatively assesses the thin film characteristics of solution co-processed ECP mixtures. To quantitatively determine the predictability of the color properties of ECP mixtures, we estimated mass extinction coefficients (εmass) from solution spectra of the CMY ECPs and compared the estimated and experimentally observed color values of blends via a calculated color difference (ΔEab). The values of ΔEab range from 8 to 26 across all mixture compositions, with an average value of 15, representing a reasonable degree of agreement between predicted and observed color values. We demonstrate here the ability to co-process ECP mixtures into vibrantly colored, visually continuous films and the ability to estimate the color properties produced in these mixed ECP films.

Concepts: Polymer, Color, Printing, Primary color, RGB color model, Color space, Color theory, Mix


‘The dress’ is a peculiar photograph: by themselves the dress' pixels are brown and blue, colors associated with natural illuminants [1], but popular accounts (#TheDress) suggest the dress appears either white/gold or blue/black [2]. Could the purported categorical perception arise because the original social-media question was an alternative-forced-choice? In a free-response survey (N = 1401), we found that most people, including those naïve to the image, reported white/gold or blue/black, but some said blue/brown. Reports of white/gold over blue/black were higher among older people and women. On re-test, some subjects reported a switch in perception, showing the image can be multistable. In a language-independent measure of perception, we asked subjects to identify the dress' colors from a complete color gamut. The results showed three peaks corresponding to the main descriptive categories, providing additional evidence that the brain resolves the image into one of three stable percepts. We hypothesize that these reflect different internal priors: some people favor a cool illuminant (blue sky), discount shorter wavelengths, and perceive white/gold; others favor a warm illuminant (incandescent light), discount longer wavelengths, and see blue/black. The remaining subjects may assume a neutral illuminant, and see blue/brown. We show that by introducing overt cues to the illumination, we can flip the dress color.

Concepts: Light, Perception, Color, Qualia, Color space, Color theory, International Commission on Illumination, Gamut


Assessing the coverage of the color space of Recommendation ITU-R BT.2020 (Rec. 2020) has become increasingly important in the design of wide-gamut displays, and an appropriate metric for measuring the display gamut size is urgently needed. Display manufactures calculate the area ratios of their displays' RGB triangles to a standard RGB triangle in the CIE 1931 xy or CIE 1976 u'v' chromaticity diagram to indicate the displays' relative gamut size. However, they typically fail to mention which of the two diagrams the metric is based on. This paper shows that the ratios calculated in the two chromaticity diagrams are highly inconsistent, and that the Rec. 2020 area-coverage ratios for wide-gamut displays in the xy diagram are much more correlated to the Rec. 2020 volume-coverage ratios in some color-appearance spaces than the Rec. 2020 area-coverage ratios in the u'v' diagram. This paper recommends the use of the xy diagram for area-coverage ratio calculations for wide-gamut displays.

Concepts: Color, Color space, Color theory, CIE 1931 color space, Lab color space, RGB color space, Gamut, Luminance


This study tested whether systematic associations between colors and concepts can be used to infer meaning from visual displays. It is well-known from the Stroop Effect that people are faster at reading a color word when displayed in a congruent text color than in an incongruent color (e.g. “RED” in red ink vs. green ink). However, it is unknown whether this type of facilitation/interference generalizes to abstract associations in ecologically valid domains. We addressed this question within the domain of recycling. We first tested whether participants have systematic associations between colors and to-be-discarded items: paper, glass and trash (Experiment 1). For each object, participants rated how strongly they associated it with each of the Berkeley Color Project 37 colors. White was systematically associated with paper, light blue with glass, and black with trash. In Experiment 2, we tested whether a different group of participants was better at discarding trash/recyclables in bins whose colors were consistent with empirically-derived mappings from Experiment 1 (color-concept consistent) than in bins whose colors were determined from ecologically-based mappings of trash/recycling bins in their environment (Brown University). During each trial participants saw a display of three bins colored in an empirically-based or an ecologically-based color scheme, along with the name of an object (paper, glass or trash). They were instructed to choose which bin was appropriate for discarding the object. The bins were not labeled so participants could only rely on their color intuitions to complete the task. Trials included all combinations of each object (paper/glass/trash) with each color scheme (color positions counterbalanced). Participants were faster and more accurate at discarding objects in the empirically-based colored bins scheme than in ecologically-based bins. The results suggest that not only do people have strong color-concept associations, but color-coding according to those associations facilitates inferring meaning from visual displays. Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015.

Concepts: Light, Color, Green, Red, Object, Color theory, Display device, Color wheel


The biological basis of the commonality in color lexicons across languages has been hotly debated for decades. Prior evidence that infants categorize color could provide support for the hypothesis that color categorization systems are not purely constructed by communication and culture. Here, we investigate the relationship between infants' categorization of color and the commonality across color lexicons, and the potential biological origin of infant color categories. We systematically mapped infants' categorical recognition memory for hue onto a stimulus array used previously to document the color lexicons of 110 nonindustrialized languages. Following familiarization to a given hue, infants' response to a novel hue indicated that their recognition memory parses the hue continuum into red, yellow, green, blue, and purple categories. Infants' categorical distinctions aligned with common distinctions in color lexicons and are organized around hues that are commonly central to lexical categories across languages. The boundaries between infants' categorical distinctions also aligned, relative to the adaptation point, with the cardinal axes that describe the early stages of color representation in retinogeniculate pathways, indicating that infant color categorization may be partly organized by biological mechanisms of color vision. The findings suggest that color categorization in language and thought is partially biologically constrained and have implications for broader debate on how biology, culture, and communication interact in human cognition.

Concepts: Biology, Cognition, Color, Purple, Hue, Primary color, Color theory, Color wheel


We report a straightforward strategy of accessing a wide variety of colors through simple predictive color mixing of electrochromic polymers (ECPs). We have created a set of brown ECP blends that can be incorporated as the active material in user-controlled electrochromic eyewear. Color mixing of ECPs proceeds in a subtractive fashion, and we acquire various hues of brown through the mixing of cyan and yellow primaries in combination with orange and periwinkle-blue secondary colors. Upon oxidation, all of the created blends exhibit a change in transmittance from ca. 10 to 70% in a few seconds. We demonstrate the attractiveness of these ECP blends as active materials in electrochromic eyewear by assembling user-controlled, high-contrast, fast-switching, and fully solution-processable electrochromic lenses with colorless transmissive states and colored states that correspond to commercially available sunglasses. The lenses were fabricated using a combination of inkjet printing and blade-coating to illustrate the feasibility of using soluble ECPs for high-throughput and large-scale processing.

Concepts: Color, Orange, Yellow, Hue, Primary color, Color theory, Tertiary color, Secondary color