A Few People See More Colors than the Rest of the Human Race

The scientific research appears to be legit. They call these people “tetrachromats.” The rest of us normal people with the common number of visible colors are called trichromat. The difference between trichromat and tetrachromats is enough to make one marvel.

Over the course of two decades, Newcastle University neuroscientist Gabriele Jordan and her colleagues have been searching for people endowed with this super-vision. Two years ago, Jordan finally found one. A doctor living in northern England, referred to only as cDa29 in the literature, is the first tetrachromat known to science. She is almost surely not the last.

The first hint that tetrachromats might exist came in a 1948 paper on color blindness. Dutch scientist HL de Vries was studying the eyes of color-blind men, who, along with two normal cones, possess a mutant cone that is less sensitive to either green or red, making it difficult for them to distinguish the two colors. He tested their vision by having them perform a basic matching task. Twiddling the dials on a lab instrument back and forth, the men had to mix red and green light so that the result, to their eyes, matched a standard shade of yellow. To compensate for their difficulty in discerning hues, color-blind men need to add more green or red than normal trichromats to make a match.

Out of curiosity, De Vries tested the daughters of one subject and observed that even though they were not color-blind—they seemed to distinguish red and green as well as anyone—they needed more red in their test light than normal people to make the match precise. If the women weren’t color-blind, what was going on? Discover Magazine

Scientists figured out a long time ago that there are many colors we don’t perceive with our naked eyes. It’s fascinating to know a few people see more than the rest of us.