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What Is a Reverse Color Blindness Test?

By B. Koch
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A reverse color blindness test uses an image that only colorblind or color deficient people can see and that people with normal color vision cannot see. Colorblindness, or color deficiency, is a condition in which an individual cannot distinguish between certain colors. A reverse color blindness test is different from the traditional color blindness test, which uses an image that only people with normal color vision can see but that cannot be seen by those who are colorblind.

Individuals with complete colorblindness cannot see any colors and only view the world in shades of gray, yet colorblindness to this extent is rare. Individuals with a color deficiency can detect certain colors but cannot see others. Colorblindness or color deficiency is typically an inherited condition and is more likely to effect men than women. There is no cure for colorblindness, but specially colored eyewear, such as glasses or contacts, may help to enhance the contrast between colors, helping colorblind individuals to perceive the world more normally.

The first colorblindness test was created by Shinobu Ishihara, a Japanese physician working during the 1900s. He was given the task of creating a test to gauge color deficiencies in military personnel. The test he created consisted of cards that displayed images that only people with normal color vision could distinguish. The Ishihara color blindness test is still used today and well as the reverse color blindness test.

A reverse color blindness test is a method of determining whether or not a person suffers from colorblindness or color deficiency. This test may be given under any number of circumstances. Color blindness tests may be given to individuals who are applying to jobs where normal color vision is essential, such as a pilot who needs to distinguish various colored lights on the plane’s control panel. They may also be given during regular checkups given by an optometrist.

To perform a reverse color blindness test, an individual is presented with a card that contains a sort of hidden image. The card is covered in dots of various sizes and colors. People with normal color vision can only see a card covered in dots, yet individuals who are color blind can see an image in the dots, for example, a number or a shape. This test works because although color deficient individuals cannot see many colors clearly, they are often better at distinguishing luminosity variations in certain colors than normally color-sighted people.

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Discussion Comments
By anon304927 — On Nov 23, 2012

"I think it would be pretty obvious if your child was colorblind." I didn't even realize I was colorblind until my mid-20s, when I just happened across one of those Ishihara tests online. I had known that my grandfather was colorblind, but never knew I had it myself.

By oscar23 — On Aug 21, 2011

I think it would be pretty obvious if your child was colorblind, but it’s good to know that there is a color blind test for children.

There is nothing quite as frightening as wondering if something is wrong with your child (even if it is something as simple as colorblindness).

So, the fact that there are color blindness tests easily accessible online is a great gift to parents.

I actually gave one of these tests to my daughter, although I was pretty sure that she was not colorblind. What frightened me was that she kept telling me, “Mommy, I can’t see with my eyes.”

She seemed to be learning in school, and she was writing letters and things clearly. Come to find out, she didn’t need glasses nor was she colorblind.

Apparently, children’s vision can sometimes become blurry when they are going through a growth spurt.

By blackDagger — On Aug 20, 2011

I have often wondered if I don’t have a certain amount of colorblindness, and now I wonder if I could find one of these free color blindess tests online to find out.

You see, I see color; it’s just that I see color in different shades than other people. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but what some people see as a deep blue I see as a vibrant purple.

Some oranges I see as red, and some deep reds I see as deep pink. This has actually gotten me in trouble before because I used to be a costume designer in college. What I saw was not always what others saw.

Is this a form of colorblindness, or is it just one of those things? I would really love to find out why I see these colors the way that I do!

By SailorJerry — On Aug 19, 2011

@MrsWinslow - I saw the movie too! It was pretty cute. I love Abigail Breslin; hope she successfully makes that difficult transition from adorable tyke to real grown-up actress.

Anyway, as far as I can tell the only point in the reverse color blind tests is to show that having color vision isn't necessarily one hundred percent "better." There are some things that color blind individuals can see, but those with "normal" vision can't. There are lots of traditional and reverse color blind tests online if you want to find a reverse test and see for yourself. (Or rather, not see, as I assume you are not color blind yourself. I did work with a lady once who was red-green colorblind, but she said it was extremely rare in women. Her father was colorblind and her mom was a carrier.)

By MrsWinslow — On Aug 19, 2011

What's the point of a reverse test for color blindness? Don't the regular ones work just fine?

I remember the movie Little Miss Sunshine had a bit with the standard color blindness test. The little girl had found one in a magazine, one of those with a red number on a green background or some such, and she was annoying everyone by making them take the test. Her older brother couldn't see anything, and he was devastated because he wanted to be a fighter pilot and now realized he never would.

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