View Full Version : How do the non-seeing experience color? Can anyone vet for me?

01-14-2017, 01:09 AM
I'm working on revisions for a book project wherein one of my main characters is non-seeing (blind) but was not born that way. (Accident brought about blindness). He describes experiencing color differently than a seeing person might (obv). I'm wondering if anyone can vet the following concept/passage for me . . .

". . .it’s like trying to tell someone what the color gold is when they’ve never heard the word ‘gold’ before. So I can tell you how things felt, but it’s hard to explain what I really remember seeing. . ."

Can any comment on this or lend some insight?
Thanks in advance!

Deb Kinnard
01-14-2017, 09:49 PM
My college roommate was a premature baby and developed RLF (retrolental fibroplasia). She was born seeing, but most of her vision was gone by age 2 or 3. She reports knowing what colors are, somewhat, but describes yellow as "kind of a light red." Blue and green are distinct in her memory.

An amusing sidelight was that as a young girl she had a habit of irritating her siblings by changing the horizontal hold button old TVs used to have, to make the picture flip so that she could see something in it. Her sisters were Not Amused.

01-14-2017, 10:18 PM
If the person wasn't born blind, unless they went blind as a baby, I'd think they'd remember and thus not experience colour any differently than a seeing person -- they saw colours when they could see.

01-16-2017, 12:50 AM
Mm - but how vividly would you remember them? I know I am startled in winter, when I look at photos I took in the summer - how much brighter the sun and more vivid the colours.

01-16-2017, 01:11 AM
These sites may be of benefit:



From the second link, a study though the full study is behind a paywall:

The sensory construction of dreams and nightmare frequency in congenitally blind and late blind individuals (http://www.sleep-journal.com/article/S1389-9457(14)00037-9/abstract#)
•Dream content analysis in 11 congenitally blind (CB), 14 late blind (LB) and 25 sighted controls (SC).
•CB and LB subjects have fewer visual dream impressions than SC.
•Blindness duration correlates negatively with duration of visual dream impressions in LB.
•CB report more auditory, tactile, gustatory and olfactory dream components compared to SC.
•CB subjects report more nightmares compared to LB and SC.
We aimed to assess dream content in groups of congenitally blind (CB), late blind (LB), and age- and sex-matched sighted control (SC) participants.

We conducted an observational study of 11 CB, 14 LB, and 25 SC participants and collected dream reports over a 4-week period. Every morning participants filled in a questionnaire related to the sensory construction of the dream, its emotional and thematic content, and the possible occurrence of nightmares. We also assessed participants’ ability of visual imagery during waking cognition, sleep quality, and depression and anxiety levels.

All blind participants had fewer visual dream impressions compared to SC participants. In LB participants, duration of blindness was negatively correlated with duration, clarity, and color content of visual dream impressions. CB participants reported more auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory dream components compared to SC participants. In contrast, LB participants only reported more tactile dream impressions. Blind and SC participants did not differ with respect to emotional and thematic dream content. However, CB participants reported more aggressive interactions and more nightmares compared to the other two groups.

Our data show that blindness considerably alters the sensory composition of dreams and that onset and duration of blindness plays an important role. The increased occurrence of nightmares in CB participants may be related to a higher number of threatening experiences in daily life in this group.

I would think someone born blind would not have developed color sensor interpretation in the brain.

01-16-2017, 01:53 AM
I'm guessing someone who has been blind from birth might still internalize some of the metaphors surrounding color--blue being sad, red being angry, green being jealous (or new and inexperienced) etc. This could lead to an emotional association with the words for color, even if the person doesn't visualize them internally. These metaphors might also serve to keep the memories of some colors, at least, alive in the minds of people who lost their sight later in life?

I don't know, though, and am just speculating. Googling this question only led me to this video.


01-16-2017, 03:57 PM
Thanks for all of the insight! Your thoughts are helpful and now I have a bit more direction!
Pressing on.