Could you tell Color from Black and White?

Before I wrap up the posts about the science experiment listening to stereo and mono versions of the same audio clip, let’s discuss an analogous science experiment with vision.  And I recognize that the most obvious visual analogy would be 3D versus non-3D, but for the sake of argument suppose we conducted an experiment to see if people with normal vision (no known diseases or color deficiencies) could tell the difference between a color and a black and white version of the same video clip.  So, here’s the protocol: a subject is told that they will watch the same video clip three times, and that two of the times will be the same, and one time will be different. And in fact, in randomized fashion, two of the three playings are identical, and one version is color (say the original), and one version is black and white which is created by converting the original color video.  The subject is not told what the difference between playings is, the subject watches the three playings of the video clip, is asked to identify the video clip that is different, and is asked to identify which playing he/she preferred.

Now, what would you expect?  I would expect that the difference between the color clip and the black and white clip would be so obvious that the subject would definitely identify correctly the video clip that is different.  And, while I suppose there can be artistic reasons sometimes to prefer black and white (Woodie Allen, for example, sometimes shoots portions of his movies in black and white), for most video clips that are originally filmed in color, I would expect the subject would prefer the color version.  As I revealed in the previous post, listeners were only correctly aware of a difference in stereo versus mono playback about 50% of the time.  Yet we would expect viewers to be correctly aware of a difference in color versus black and white about 100% of the time.  To me this means that for most listeners, the “stereophonic” aspect of music playback is relatively unimportant especially compared with the importance of color to vision.

Now a different version of the audio experiment would be to tell the subject the purpose of the experiment and to train them to hear the differences.  Similarly here, a different version of this visual experiment would be to tell the subject, “we are investigating whether you can tell the difference between color and black and white.”  However, I don’t think that would change the results for the color/b&w experiment.  It might change the results of the audio experiment though.


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