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The Representation of Color Metrics and Mappings in Perceptual Color Space

Steven M. Boker gif

Department of Psychology
The University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22903


Color is not a physical property of objects, it is a perceptual representation of the distribution of photon energy quanta within a reflectance or emission spectrum produced by an object. The function which maps these distributions of photon energy quanta onto our perceptions of color has been studied in one guise or another for over three hundred years. An historical review of the literature related to the construction of a perceptual color space is presented here, beginning with Newton and ending with current thought. Perceptual color space refers to the representational framework in which our perceptions of color relate to one another. A uniform metric for the perception of color has remained something of a mirage, at once seeming to be easily attainable and yet always just out of reach.

This article presents a rethinking of the problem of representation of both the space of photic stimuli and the perceptual color space within the context of the theory of Riemann manifolds. The color perception mapping function is suggested to be highly similar to statistical problems in which distributions need to be uniquely characterized with a few invariants. An argument is presented that perceptual color space needs to be represented in at least four dimensions in order to accurately capture and discriminate the distributions of photon energy quanta present in real world objects.

Steven M. Boker
Sun Feb 12 19:24:36 EST 1995