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I have noticed when in a dark room light and color seem to be brighter and more intense in the corner of my eyes. For example the light that comes from my digital clock seems like a dark pink when I look straight at it. But when I see it in the corner of my eyes it looks red.

What causes this?

Is this normal, does everyone perceive it that way?

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1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Your retina has two kinds of light-sensing nerves: cones and rods. Cones are responsible for color vision, i.e. hue, while your rods handle differences in the value, as in how bright it is.

Humans have adapted to have cones mostly in the center of the eye (which corresponds to what you're looking directly at), where the most distinguishing color information is needed. It's not often that you'd use your peripheral vision to identify the actual color of something, and this explains why you're seeing a difference between pink and red. The intensity of the color is correct, but you aren't able to identify the hue because of a lack of cone nerves.

So yes, this is normal. A fun trick (and also totally helpful if you have a messy room) is to look a foot or so above the floor when you're walking in the dark. It allows you to see what you're walking on better, since you need intensity receptors more than color receptors.

References:

http://regentsprep.org/Regents/physics/phys09/ceyes/sensing.htm

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/vision/rodcone.html

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