color blindness, visual defect resulting in the inability to distinguish colors. About 8% of men and 0.5% of women experience some difficulty in color perception. Color blindness is usually an inherited sex-linked characteristic, transmitted through, but recessive in, females. Acquired color blindness results from certain degenerative diseases of the eyes. Most of those with defective color vision are only partially color-blind to red and green, i.e., they have a limited ability to distinguish reddish and greenish shades. Those who are completely color-blind to red and green see both colors as a shade of yellow. Completely color-blind individuals can recognize only black, white, and shades of gray. Color blindness is usually not related to visual acuity; it is significant, therefore, only when persons who suffer from it seek employment in occupations where color recognition is important, such as airline pilots, railroad engineers, and others who must recognize red and green traffic signals. Tests for color blindness include identifying partially concealed figures or patterns from a mass of colored dots and matching skeins of wool or enameled chips of various colors.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.