Hechts Color Vision Theory

Hecht's photochemical theory. The Austrian-American physiologist Selig Hecht (18921947) conducted research in the areas of physical chemistry, physiology, and biophysics and studied, among other issues, the basic functioning of the eye, the sensitivity curve to different wavelengths under low illumination viewing with the rods, and a hypothetico-deductive approach to the chemical breakdown and recombination in the rods and cones. Hecht's color vision theory is a mathematical account of the component physiological processes that intervene between visual data and a mathematical space and elaborates on the line-element theory of H. von Helmholtz and W. S. Stiles. The theory assumes that there are three kinds of cones present in the retina and that in the fovea they exist in approximately equal numbers. The sensations that result from the action of the three types of cones are qualitatively specific and are described as blue, green, and red. Given a specific cone that contains a photosensitive substance whose spectral absorption is greater in the blue or in the green or in the red, and when the substance is altered by light and initiates a nerve impulse, the nerve will register, respectively, blue, green, or red in the brain. The type of color vision theory proposed by Hecht exhibits many desirable features; for example, it formulates mechanisms that offer many researchers a flexible basis for further exploration of visual processes. Certain aspects of color vision, however, are not accounted for by Hecht's theory, such as the data generated by some studies of color blindness, as well as some of the data in the two-color threshold domain of vision research. See also COLOR VISION, THEORIES/LAWS OF; HELMHOLTZ'S COLOR VISION THEORY; PUR-KIN JE EF


Hecht, S. (1928). On the binocular fusion of colors and its relation to theories of color vision. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 14, 237-241.

Hecht, S. (1930). The development of Thomas Young's theory of color vision. Journal of the Optical Society of America, 20, 231-270. Hecht, S. (1931). The interrelations of various aspects of color vision. Journal of the Optical Society of America, 21, 615-639.

Hecht, S. (1935). A theory of visual intensity discrimination. Journal of General Physiology, 18, 767-789. Hecht, S. (1937). Rods, cones, and the chemical basis of vision. Physiological Review, 17, 239-290. Hecht, S. (1944). Energy and vision. American Scientist, 32, 159-177. Graham, C. (1965). Color: Data and theories.

In C. Graham (Ed.), Vision and visual perception. New York: Wiley.

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