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trichromatic theory


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A theory of colour vision specifically intended to take account of trichromacy, according to which at each point on the retina of the eye there are three light-sensitive structures responsive to red, green, and blue light. The theory was formulated in 1802 by the English physician, physicist, and Egyptologist Thomas Young (1773–1829) and championed in 1852 by the influential German physiologist, physicist, and mathematician Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (1821–94), and in 1959 physiological research confirmed that the retina contains three types of cones, each maximally responsive to a different wavelength, though with overlapping response curves. Also called the three-colour theory or the Young-Helmholtz theory. Compare opponent-process theory.

Subjects: Psychology.


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