The experiments that we report aim to elucidate the linkage between cone outputs and color sensation. This is investigated by measuring wavelength discrimination between stimuli at threshold levels of detection. Stimuli are large spots (0.75 deg) presented on a white background. A 2 × 2 alternate forced choice method is used to measure simultaneously the detection of different wavelengths and discrimination between them. This method reveals at least four distinguishable colors, indicating the presence of four different sets of mechanisms at threshold. These are associated with the color sensations of orange, pale yellow, green, and blue. There is also evidence for a fifth imperfectly distinguished color (violet) in the shortest wavelength region. Results show that the boundaries between the distinguishable colors have little variation in their spectral positions. This is compatible with the presence of fixed perceptual boundaries in the spectrum dividing the different types of detection mechanism. The correspondence of the spectral locations of the distinguishable colors to the cone opponent responses revealed in the spectral sensitivity function suggests that these color sensations are postreceptoral in origin, arising from different combinations of the three cone outputs.
© 1990 Optical Society of America
Original Manuscript: November 28, 1988
Manuscript Accepted: October 24, 1989
Published: April 1, 1990
K. T. Mullen and J. J. Kulikowski, "Wavelength discrimination at detection threshold," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 7, 733-742 (1990)