Black and White Aren’t Opposites After All

Neuroscientists Are Still Cracking the Puzzle of Why Our Brains Process Light and Darkness Asymmetrically

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Most people see the world in color, yet artists can conjure up whole worlds—both realistic and imaginary—by using black pigments on white paper. Our ability to understand these drawings suggests that we use variations in brightness to extract a lot of visual information from the world. As a perceptual neuroscientist, I appreciate these drawings not just aesthetically, but also as experiments that can reveal what aspects of the world we perceive well and the neural processes by which we perceive them.

In popular culture, black and white are thought …

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