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Language is not necessary for color categories

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JournalDevelopmental Science
DatePublished - 1 Jan 2013
Issue number1
Volume16
Number of pages5
Pages (from-to)111-115
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The origin of color categories is under debate. Some researchers argue that color categories are linguistically constructed, while others claim they have a pre-linguistic, and possibly even innate, basis. Although there is some evidence that 4-6-month-old infants respond categorically to color, these empirical results have been challenged in recent years. First, it has been claimed that previous demonstrations of color categories in infants may reflect color preferences instead. Second, and more seriously, other labs have reported failing to replicate the basic findings at all. In the current study we used eye-tracking to test 8-month-old infants' categorical perception of a previously attested color boundary (green-blue) and an additional color boundary (blue-purple). Our results show that infants are faster and more accurate at fixating targets when they come from a different color category than when from the same category (even though the chromatic separation sizes were equated). This is the case for both blue-green and blue-purple. Our findings provide independent evidence for the existence of color categories in pre-linguistic infants, and suggest that categorical perception of color can occur without color language.

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