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Sensation and Perception


The Senses

Vision, page 2

page 1 of 3

Researchers have studied vision more thoroughly than the other senses. Because people need sight to perform most daily activities, the sense of sight has evolved to be highly sophisticated. Vision, however, would not exist without the presence of light. Light is electromagnetic radiation that travels in the form of waves. Light is emitted from the sun, stars, fire, and lightbulbs. Most other objects just reflect light.

People experience light as having three features: color, brightness, and saturation. These three types of experiences come from three corresponding characteristics of light waves:

  • The color or hue of light depends on its wavelength, the distance between the peaks of its waves.
  • The brightness of light is related to intensity or the amount of light an object emits or reflects. Brightness depends on light wave amplitude, the height of light waves. Brightness is also somewhat influenced by wavelength. Yellow light tends to look brighter than reds or blues.
  • Saturation or colorfulness depends on light complexity, the range of wavelengths in light. The color of a single wavelength is pure spectral color. Such lights are called fully saturated. Outside a laboratory, light is rarely pure or of a single wavelength. Light is usually a mixture of several different wavelengths. The greater number of spectral colors in a light, the lower the saturation. Light of mixed wavelengths looks duller or paler than pure light.
Wavelength ——> Color
Amplitude ——> Brightness
Complexity ——> Saturation