Faculty of Medical Sciences

Event items

The Private Life of Colour

Are colours tangible things? Or do they very much depend on the individual looking at them? Three very different tales of colour from philosophy, psychology and first hand experience.

Date/Time: 19 September 2018, 17:30-19:00

Venue: Room 1.63, Ridley Building 2, Newcastle University

Questions such as What is colour? or What does a colour-blind person see? or Is the red you see the same as the red I see? are often asked by members of the public, yet the answers to such questions are not that straight forward and may depend on who you ask: An experimental psychologist or visual neuroscientist will tell you that colour is simply a construct of the eye/brain and depends on the structures and functions of the visual system of the beholder and cannot be shared. The viewpoint of a philosopher will be governed by their respective approach, and an individual with ‘variant’ colour vision - such as colour blindness or synaesthesia - will offer an insightful but introspective view of their personal experience. Whatever the viewpoint, we hope that our event will demonstrate that our perception of colour is indeed very private.

This event will present 3 different takes on the idea of colour. 

Colour subjectivisms, Why, what, and which one? Dr Derek Brown, Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Glasgow. 
Colour subjectivists deny that colours are objective properties “out there” in our world. Carrots don’t have orange in themselves, nor do avocados have green. For colour subjectivists there is a robust private life of colour. Why hold such a view?

What it’s like to be colour blind. Joe Crutwell, Science writer for the British Science Association.
I have a confession to make. I am red-green colour blind. I have been for the entirety of my life, but didn’t find out until I was around 10 years old, when I was shown a series of odd dot patterns at school. Ever since then, I‘ve been extremely interested in the details of this deficiency, both in my life experience and what I discovered through study.

Individual differences in the perception of colours: From the perspective of synaesthesia and autism. Dr David Simmons, Psychology Lecturer at the University of Glasgow.
It is tempting to think that everyone experiences colours in the same way we do. Certainly there is a surprising level of agreement over the colours that most people like and dislike, although there is also evidence that this can be heavily influenced by culture and upbringing. But for synaesthetes letters, words and even voices can be coloured, whereas for some autistic individuals seeing certain colours can give rise to discomfort and pain. I shall explore the world of individual differences in colour perception using examples from my own and others’ research.

Free event, all welcome. No booking required.

private life of colour