A Quantitative Theory of Human Color Choices

Komarova, Natalia L.; Jameson, Kimberly A.
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
The system for colorimetry adopted by the Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage (CIE) in 1931, along with its subsequent improvements, represents a family of light mixture models that has served well for many decades for stimulus specification and reproduction when highly controlled color standards are important. Still, with regard to color appearance many perceptual and cognitive factors are known to contribute to color similarity, and, in general, to all cognitive judgments of color. Using experimentally obtained odd-one-out triad similarity judgments from 52 observers, we demonstrate that CIE-based models can explain a good portion (but not all) of the color similarity data. Color difference quantified by CIELAB ΔE explained behavior at levels of 81% (across all colors), 79% (across red colors), and 66% (across blue colors). We show that the unexplained variation cannot be ascribed to inter- or intra-individual variations among the observers, and points to the presence of additional factors shared by the majority of responders. Based on this, we create a quantitative model of a lexicographic semiorder type, which shows how different perceptual and cognitive influences can trade-off when making color similarity judgments. We show that by incorporating additional influences related to categorical and lightness and saturation factors, the model explains more of the triad similarity behavior, namely, 91% (all colors), 90% (reds), and 87% (blues). We conclude that distance in a CIE model is but the first of several layers in a hierarchy of higher-order cognitive influences that shape color triad choices. We further discuss additional mitigating influences outside the scope of CIE modeling, which can be incorporated in this framework, including well-known influences from language, stimulus set effects, and color preference bias. We also discuss universal and cultural aspects of the model as well as non-uniformity of the color space with respect to different cultural biases.


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