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By the time the year 1985 rolled around, I had already been working in the realm of color vision for thirty years, with a clear focus on the psychophysiological aspects of adult human vision – the kinds of phenomena for which a genetic basis seems likely, and for which individual differences are minor. That is, I deliberately avoided working on developmental or comparative aspects of color vision, and with some exceptions I also tried to steer clear of cognitive complications. In most of my experiments, usually carried out in collaboration with graduate students or postdoctoral fellows, we used noninvasive psychophysical techniques and human subjects. (For a while I was inserting microelectrodes into monkey eyes as well.) For many years I never suspected that linguists or anthropologists had any interest in the fundamental aspects of color vision, although I was familiar with (and, I must say, unimpressed by) the Whorfian hypothesis, and it was my understanding that anthropologists considered that the naming of colors was an arbitrary affair, fully under the control of cultural influences. Perhaps most vision scientists felt that way too, because, compared to threshold measurements and matching procedures, color naming was not considered to be a very respectable psychophysical technique for getting at the fundamental aspects of color perception.
I first became aware of Berlin and Kay's Basic Color Terms (1969) when the monograph was mentioned in a 1973 Annual Review of Psychology article (Trandis, Malpass, and Davidson 1973).