Saturday, August 8, 2015

True Yellow

Humans distinguish blue, green, yellow, and red as unique hues. Unique hues are psychologically primary — we perceive them as pure rather then a blend of colors.

In higher and lower latitudes, seasons are associated with a dominant color palette: greens during the growing season; reds, yellows, and oranges during harvest; and shades of gray when the snow flies.

Olive Trees with yellow sky and sun
by Vincent van Gogh
Saint-Rémy, November 1889

Seasons also seem to affect our perception of color. Psychologists at the University of York have published research indicating humans see yellow differently in the January (winter in the UK), than in June (summer in the UK).
"In York you typically have grey, dull winters and then in summer you have greenery everywhere. Our vision compensates for those changes and that, surprisingly, changes what we think ‘yellow’ looks like."
Lauren Welbourne, University of York, Department of Psychology
Yellow is unusual among the unique hues because most people, despite differences in retinal physiology, age, and culture, tend to agree on true or unique yellow. Subjects in the UK exposed to chromatically adjusted artificial light were asked when the light reached true yellow. Significant differences in the recognition of true yellow occurred depending on whether it was winter or summer.
"What we are finding is that between seasons our vision adapts to changes in environment."
Lauren Welbourne
Painters have long appreciated the changes in the quality of light over the course of a day or across seasons. It seems our minds adjust our perception of color to re-balance or compensate for some of those variations.
Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.
Pablo Picasso