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Quick Questions dispels the myth that dogs can only see in black and white.

Hosted by: Michael Aranda
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(Quick Questions Intro Music)
Michael: Maybe you've heard that dogs can only see in black and white. It's one of those fun factoids that people like to toss around sometimes. But this, like so many things we talk about on Quick Questions, is a misconception. And the misconception stems from the fact that dogs are, from a human perspective, colorblind. But that doesn't mean they can't see color. (0:19)
We perceive color through a series of preceptors in the retinas of our eyes, called cones. And humans have three kinds, each of which is activated by a specific wavelength of light, corresponding to a certain set of colors. (0:29)
Most humans have cones that can detect blue, green, and red wavelengths of light, but dogs, kind of light humans who are colorblind, only have two kinds of cones that work. (0:38)
For dogs, the two colors they can register are blue and yellow. So dogs can't see the color red, but they can see, and distinguish between, various shades of yellow, blue, gray, and something that probably comes through as a dirty-greenish-brown. (0:50)
So while we see this, your dog sees something more like this. It's not exactly technicolor, but it's a lot more information that just black and white. And, setting the record straight about dog's partial color vision is teaching us a lot about how pups experience the world. Recent experiments have found that dogs who are trained to find dark yellow objects could still find them, even if they were replaced with very dark yellow ones. (1:15) And they didn't mistake dark blue objects for the dark yellow ones either, suggesting that dogs can clearly distinguish between many different shades and colors and don't just see in gray-scale.
So the next time you ask your dog to fetch your blue slippers, and he comes back with a pair of bananas, he's not colorblind, he's just messing with you. (1:24)


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