Perception & Psychophysics

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 494-507

First online:

Dimensional interactions and the structure of psychological space: The representation of hue, saturation, and brightness

  • Barbara BurnsAffiliated withMount Holyoke College
  • , Bryan E. SheppAffiliated withBrown University


The perception of color has traditionally been characterized by the subjective dimensions of hue, brightness, and saturation. In the present study we reexamined this view by investigating whether the dimensions of color stimuli are psychologically independent in dissimilarity judgment, spontaneous classification, and instructed classification tasks. Dissimilarity judgments analyzed within the framework of the additive difference measurement model (Beals, Krantz, & Tversky, 1968; Krantz & Tversky, 1975; Tversky & Krantz, 1969, 1970) reflected violations of psychological independence for hue-chroma, hue-value, and value-chroma stimulus sets. Spontaneous classifications of each color set revealed that subjects were not sensitive to shared dimensional relations of color stimuli, but rather responded to the holistic, overall similarity relations of the stimuli. In the instructed classification task, both untutored undergraduates and "color experts" (artists specially tutored in the Munsell color system), instructed to classify according to shared dimensional relations, could extract dimensional information about either value or chroma when each was varied with hue, but could not extract dimensional information about hue. Color experts were superior to nonexperts in the extraction of dimensional information about chroma only with moderately or highly saturated stimuli. The implications of these results are considered in relation to current thinking about the perceptual organization of color and current thinking about the identification of appropriate diagnostics for independent psychological dimensions.