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19. Basic Colors and Image Features: The Case for an Analogy

Lewis D. Griffin

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781119954682.2013.00022.x


The drawing of analogies is suspect within science—since they are never total, it is unclear how to test and reject them—but they can be productive. The most successful become commonplace and unnoticed, for example, between color and physical space ( Riemann, 1854 ). Talking of the dimensionality of color space , or of a plane of colors, raises no eyebrows. More daring analogies need to be examined with care: the similarities and the differences need to be itemized and weighed. Very occasionally an analogy as deep as the color/space one will be found, but more often the similarities will reveal themselves as superficial or outweighed. In such a case, the process of examination may still be worthwhile. We may come to know two things better by understanding more clearly the ways in which they are different. Consider, for example, Newton's analogy between spectral hue and musical pitch ( Hutchinson, 1998 ; Pesic, 2006 ) evidenced by his inclusion of musical notes on his color diagrams. How deep does this analogy go? What are the similarities and differences between the two perceptual domains? Newton saw three similarities. First, that both domains are locally continuous and one-dimensional. Second, that both domains are globally, topologically like a circle. This is not quite right. Newton wrongly believed that the light at the two ends of the visible spectrum had identical hue—an ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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