Hearing words changes color perception: Facilitation of color discrimination by verbal and visual cues.

As part of learning some languages, people learn to name colors using categorical labels such as “red,” “yellow,” and “green.” Such labeling clearly facilitates communicating about colors, but does it also impact color perception? We demonstrate that simply hearing color words enhances categorical color perception, improving people’s accuracy in discriminating between simultaneously presented colors in an untimed task. Immediately after hearing a color word participants were better able to distinguish between colors from the named category and colors from nearby categories. Discrimination between typical and atypical category members was also enhanced. Verbal cues slightly decreased discrimination accuracy between two typical shades of the named color. In contrast to verbal cues, a preview of the target color, an arguably more informative cue, failed to yield any changes to discrimination accuracy. The finding that color words strongly affect color discrimination accuracy suggests that categorical color perception may be caused by color representations being augmented in-the-moment by language. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)