The development of categorical colour constancy

C Witzel, E Sanchez-Walker, A Franklin

School of Psychology, Sussex University, United Kingdom

Colour naming and colour constancy serve the purpose of reliably identifying surface colours across illuminations and observers. To test for common developmental origins, we investigated whether categorical colour constancy interacts with category development during colour term acquisition. For this purpose, we focused on toddlers who are just developing linguistic colour categories (39-42 months). We let them categorise 160 Munsell chips and identify the category prototypes under different illuminations. We disentangled illumination-specific changes in categorisation from unspecific variations. Results showed that categorical consistency was reduced due to illuminant-specific changes. Moreover, the changes in category membership were partly in line with those predicted by the change in illumination. These illumination-specific changes of category membership were correlated to category maturity, which is the similarity of a toddler’s categories to adult ones. In contrast, colour constancy of category prototypes was not correlated to category maturity, mainly because toddlers tended to overcompensate for illumination changes when selecting prototypes. Overall, these results suggest that category development involves adaptation to illuminant changes, and interacts with high-level, probably cognitive, determinants of colour constancy. Supported by a DAAD postdoc fellowship to cw, and an ERC funded project “categories” (ref 283605) to af.

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