Tetrachromatics' Loneliness

Published: 2022-11-21

Did you know that your friend—the one who can distinguish all shades of greenish—sees the world in exactly that way, not just boasts of knowledge? How do ultra-sensitive tetrachromats survive in an imperfect world? And why weren't great artists necessarily born with that spectrum?

Tetrachromatics' Loneliness

Tetrachromatics’ Loneliness

Some people are extremely sensitive to color, and others are deeply unresponsive. Let’s call them chromophiliacs and chromophobiacs(sorry for these charmingly ugly words). They can get along but become sick of each other in private. For chromophiliacs living with chromophobiacs, no matter how neat things are, it is a suffocating prison. And for chromaphobiacs rooming with chromophiliacs, it is the epitome of gaudy and tasteless.

Chromophiliacs, even on the day of their death, would notice the ruby-red cape of their executioner. A chromophobiac, however, would want their wedding to be only black-and-white, including the bride. What’s the point of excess?

There are also the color-blind, of course. My former boss showed up to work one day in a poison-green hat, convinced it was brown.

And finally, there are those who are ultra-sensitive to color, the tetrachromats.


They have four light receptors rather than three. Some birds, reptilesand sea creatures are tetrachromats, and it allows them to see things that are invisible to us. I’d like to turn into some kind of crustacean for a day, just so I can see the world through their eyes. Hopefully, this is even offered as a service someday. We just need to make sure that criminals won’t abuse it to escape justice. That hummingbird you love may, in fact, have robbed 3 banks, and is involved in fraud and drug trafficking, so it’s no longer just a cute little bird.

Generally, the human eye is completely powerless outside the normal spectrum, even if it’s tetrachromatic. “Normal” in this case means “human”. But there are many joys within our limited spectrumif you’re looking for them!

Still, you could say that tetrachromats are lucky, although that’s not always the case. One such lady complained that the supermarket was unbearable for her… just mountains of colored garbage.

Others cannot stand colored stickers on products, tearing them off, while their homes are immaculately colorless.


It’s interesting that these color geniuses aren’t necessarily artists. We are, to tetrachromats, aesthetically blind, but we think the same of chromophobiacs. After all, we can’t distinguish among a thousand shades of green, and these differences are enormous to a tetrachromat. Thus, the works of one female tetrachromat I know, who did become an artist, are in my opinion deprived of even the smallest artistic value.

I don’t know what to make of this conclusion. Perhaps I’ll do it next time.


Text and photos: Sebastian Varo

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