The Russian Blues Reveal Effects of Language on Color Discrimination

Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 06/2007; 104(19):7780-5. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0701644104
Source: PubMed


English and Russian color terms divide the color spectrum differently. Unlike English, Russian makes an obligatory distinction between lighter blues ("goluboy") and darker blues ("siniy"). We investigated whether this linguistic difference leads to differences in color discrimination. We tested English and Russian speakers in a speeded color discrimination task using blue stimuli that spanned the siniy/goluboy border. We found that Russian speakers were faster to discriminate two colors when they fell into different linguistic categories in Russian (one siniy and the other goluboy) than when they were from the same linguistic category (both siniy or both goluboy). Moreover, this category advantage was eliminated by a verbal, but not a spatial, dual task. These effects were stronger for difficult discriminations (i.e., when the colors were perceptually close) than for easy discriminations (i.e., when the colors were further apart). English speakers tested on the identical stimuli did not show a category advantage in any of the conditions. These results demonstrate that (i) categories in language affect performance on simple perceptual color tasks and (ii) the effect of language is online (and can be disrupted by verbal interference).

Download full-text


Available from: Lisa Wulund, Feb 04, 2014
36 Reads
  • Source
    • "The blue region of color space was shown to be consistently categorized by Russian speakers into two non-overlapping regions, a 'light blue' region and a 'dark blue' region, designated by the distinct terms " goluboj " and " sinij " respectively. Influences of this category distinction on color discrimination were investigated by Winawer et al. (2007), who found that Russian speakers were able to discriminate two colors faster when they fell into different 'blue' categories in Russian, and this advantage was not shown by English speakers who do not have a similarly lexicalized category distinction. Distinctions in the blue region of color space have similarly been shown for Greek (Androulaki et al., 2001), Japanese (Uchikawa and Boynton, 1987), and Turkish (Özgen & Davies, 1998) color lexicons. "
    [Show description] [Hide description]
    DESCRIPTION: Undergraduate Cognitive Sciences Honors Thesis
    • "As a result, they are prone to mix effects of categorical perception into the measure of discriminability (for details, see Witzel & Gegenfurtner, 2011, 2013). Finally, some of the most influential studies even neglected the issue of perceptual equidistance (e.g., Winawer et al., 2007) or failed to control color rendering (e.g., Gilbert et al., 2006; Drivonikou et al., 2007; Paluy et al., 2011). Consequently, those previous studies did not control perceptual differences in a meaningful way. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study investigates the impact of language on color perception. By categorical facilitation, we refer to an aspect of categorical perception, in which the linguistic distinction between categories affects color discrimination beyond the low-level, sensory sensitivity to color differences. According to this idea, discrimination performance for colors that cross a category border should be better than for colors that belong to the same category when controlling for low-level sensitivity. We controlled for sensitivity by using colors that were equally discriminable according to empirically measured discrimination thresholds. To test for categorical facilitation, we measured response times and error rates in a speeded discrimination task for suprathreshold stimuli. Robust categorical facilitation occurred for five out of six categories with a group of inexperienced observers, namely for pink, orange, yellow, green, and purple. Categorical facilitation was robust against individual variations of categories or the laterality of target presentation. However, contradictory effects occurred in the blue category, most probably reflecting the difficulty to control effects of sensory mechanisms at the green-blue boundary. Moreover, a group of observers who were highly familiar with the discrimination task did not show consistent categorical facilitation in the other five categories. This trained group had much faster response times than the inexperienced group without any speed-accuracy trade-off. Additional analyses suggest that categorical facilitation occurs when observers pay attention to the categorical distinction but not when they respond automatically based on sensory feed-forward information.
    Journal of Vision 06/2015; 15(8):22. DOI:10.1167/15.8.22 · 2.39 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "nd Ward ' s ( 2013 ) study , participants who were presented with valid vs . invalid labels for the object present during CFS actually showed greater sensitivity to detect the presence of a suppressed image . " Label - feedback " thus explains the myriad ways in which language impacts spatial cognition ( Boroditsky , 2001 ) , color per - ception ( Winawer et al . , 2007 ) , action perception ( Stanfield and Zwaan , 2001 ; Zwaan et al . , 2002 ) and not least , our own language"
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Common sense suggests that emotions are physical types that have little to do with the words we use to label them. Yet recent psychological constructionist accounts reveal that language is a fundamental element in emotion that is constitutive of both emotion experiences and perceptions. According to the psychological constructionist Conceptual Act Theory, an instance of emotion occurs when information from one’s body or other people’s bodies is made meaningful in light of the present situation using concept knowledge about emotion. The CAT suggests that language plays a role in emotion because language supports the conceptual knowledge used to make meaning of sensations from the body and world in a given context. In the present paper, we review evidence from developmental and cognitive science to reveal that language scaffolds concept knowledge in humans, helping humans to acquire abstract concepts such as emotion categories across the lifespan. Critically, language later helps individuals use concepts to make meaning of on-going sensory perceptions. Building on this evidence, we outline predictions from a psychological constructionist model of emotion in which language serves as the “glue” for emotion concept knowledge, binding concepts to embodied experiences and in turn shaping the ongoing processing of sensory information from the body and world to create emotional experiences and perceptions.
    Frontiers in Psychology 04/2015; 6. DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00444 · 2.80 Impact Factor
Show more