Dichromats Detect Colour-Camouflaged Objects that are not Detected by Trichromats

M. J. Morgan, A. Adam, J. D. Mollon

Abstract

To explain the surprisingly high frequency of congenital red--green colour blindness, the suggestion has been made that dichromats might be at an advantage in breaking certain kinds of colour camouflage. We have compared the performance of dichromats and normal observers in a task in which texture is camouflaged by colour. The texture elements in a target area differed in either orientation or size from the background elements. In one condition, the texture elements were all of the same colour; in the camouflage condition they were randomly coloured red or green. For trichromats, it proved to be more difficult to detect the target region in the camouflage condition, even though colour was completely irrelevant to the task. Dichromats (n = 7) did not show this effect, and indeed performed better than trichromats in the camouflage condition. We conclude that colour can interfere with segregation based upon texture, and that dichromats are less susceptible to such interference.