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I am wondering how we perceive color and whether that is dependent on the wavelength of the light, or on something manufactured in the brain.

For instance, if we evolved on a planet orbiting a red dwarf star, would we see colors differently than we do now, given that our sunlight has another wavelength composition?

I know that there have been experiments where volunteers have worn glasses that make them see the world upside-down and eventually the brain corrects this and they see right-side-up again (and have to re-adapt when removing the glasses). I wonder if something similar would happen with color perception.

Does anyone know of any studies done that have tested this?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is primarily opinion-based, as it is asking about a hypothetical situation. This question may be more on-topic at the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Aug 25 '16 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ @MattDMo - I think it boils down to whether we can test color perception, or only color sensation. It's an OK question imo. +1 I've refined it a bit. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Aug 26 '16 at 8:05
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The color you perceive is ultimately dependent on the relative contributions of the color photoreceptors in the retina, namely the red, green and blue cones. The sensation of color, therefore, is physically determined by the wavelengths in the light source and the absorbance spectra of the cones. Thereafter, the neurophysiological wirings of the retina and the brain take over and these paths are pretty well defined too. However, one cannot say anything about the qualitative perception of someone observing a light source. This is the big difference between sensation (peripheral processes including the retina) and perception (central processes).

To quote the late Bach-y-Rita: 'You see with your brain, not with your eyes.'

Everything we perceive ('see') is a subjective construct devised by our brains. No red dwarf star is necessary to pose the possibility that you perceive my perceived red as green, or vice versa. No experiments can be conducted to prove or disprove a hypothesis like this.

In terms of experiments: we can test stuff like 'up' versus 'down', as with the prisms mentioned in the question. This, because a subject can qualitatively point out where an object is perceived relative to others, and that can be objectively measured. However, we cannot test the subjective quality of color. We can test relative color contributions through color matching experiments (Kalloniatis & Luu, 2012). These experiments will tell you which contributions the red, green and blue cones have in a certain color mixture, but they will not tell the researcher anything about the subjectively perceived color by the test subject in a qualitative way.

Reference
- Kalloniatis & Luu. Color Perception. In: Webvision. The Organization of the Retina and Visual System, Moran Eye Center (2012)

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for taking my question seriously even though it seems kind of silly at first. I thought that maybe if a person was in a different (more mono-chrome) "light environment" that he/she might eventually see more diversity of color as our brains reinterpret the information that the light cones of our eyes gather. I thought that this may be something that could be tested. $\endgroup$ – Jack R. Woods Aug 29 '16 at 22:39
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    $\begingroup$ @JackR.Woods now I understand your question better, thanks for that. Although I doubt I can add much relevant info, I can try to edit my answer. If you don't mind I can re-edit the question too and see if anyone else has ideas? $\endgroup$ – AliceD Aug 30 '16 at 5:38

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