The Women That See 100 Million Colors Live In A Different World! Did you know that one five women are born with an extra photoreceptor gene that allows them to see colors in the world that are invisible to everyone else? But this remarkable ability is hardly the extent of the ‘super vision’ that some women experience. For Tetrachromats, for instance, the world is a spectacularly (and even painfully) colorful place.
Preliminary research suggests that a small percentage of people have the ability to perceive about 100 million colors—compared with the roughly one million colors the rest of us can see.
The explanation for this phenomenon lies in the “cone cells” in the back of the eyes. Each cone cell is capable of perceiving about 100 different colors. Most animals are “dichromats,” meaning their eyes only contain two kinds of cone cells. Most humans and primates are “trichromats,” meaning they can perceive 100^3 colors, or one million.
Certain fish, birds, insects, and (we’re finding out) humans are tetrachromats, meaning their eyes have four different types of cone cells, allowing them to see 100 million different colors. Interestingly, because it’s impossible to see the world through the eyes of others, some tetrachromats don’t even realize their capabilities.
Dr. Jay Neitz, a color vision researcher and ophthalmology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, believes that this ability likely appears in women with sons or fathers who are colorblind. Tetrachromatic women are believed to carry the genes for three normal cone cell types and one mutant type. Only about 2 percent of women have the genetic mutation that results in the extra retina cone, Neitz estimates.
But there is still no test to reliably predict whether someone really has “super vision.” Still, there are people who have self-diagnosed.
Take Concetta Antico, for instance, a tetrachromat artists and oil-painting teacher from San Diego. She describes her ability as “seeing colors in other colors.” Antico claims that while a person with regular vision would see different versions of greens in mowed grass, she sees “pinks, reds, oranges, gold in the blades and the tips, and gray-blues and violets and dark greens, browns and emeralds and viridian, limes and many more colors—hundreds of other colors in the grass.”
The ability allows her to do remarkable thinks, like tell is her daughter is sick just by looking at her because she can recognize greenish-yellow or whitish-lilac in her skin tones. It also helps her paint in ways and with colors others couldn’t even imagine. But it isn’t always a blessing.
Antico is very particular about color coordination in her décor, wardrobe, and the toys her children play with. A lot of things default to white.
“The grocery store and the mall are a color assault, there’s too much of everything and too much that is not naturally beautiful,” she explains. “Too many harsh colors and candy-colored marketing style ‘plastics’ for my liking. I find red and yellow too much. Yellow stresses me out.”
Antico also finds herself easily distracted.
What do you think? Is being a tetrachromat a remarkable ability or a type of curse?