Generalization and categorization of spectral colors in goldfish I. Experiments with one training wavelength

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2005 Nov;191(11):1025-36. doi: 10.1007/s00359-005-0011-7. Epub 2005 Nov 4.


Goldfish have a tetrachromatic color vision with a high discrimination ability for spectral colors as well as for object colors. We investigate the question whether goldfish organize the high number of discriminable colors in terms of color categories, i.e. in a few larger groups of colors independent of wavelength discrimination. Twenty-four goldfish were trained with food reward, each fish on one out of 13 wavelengths between 371 nm and 630 nm. In transfer tests two different wavelengths were presented, one shorter and one longer than the training wavelength, and the choice behavior was determined. Choice frequencies of >or=50% were assumed to indicate similarity to the training color. The wavelength ranges >or=50% were about 100 nm and twice as large as the just noticeable differences measured in wavelength discrimination tests (Fig. 7). The ranges were surprisingly about the same for all training wavelengths, provided the data were plotted on a wavelength scale weighted according to discrimination ability (Fig. 4). Thus, with the training method chosen goldfish showed a kind of categorization which, however, depends on training wavelength and discrimination ability. Generalization tests in which training wavelength and test wavelengths were shown separately for 2 min each gave the same results as wavelength discrimination tests (Figs. 5 and 6) and are, therefore, not indicative for color categories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Differential Threshold / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Goldfish / physiology*