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My son knows his colors pretty well, but still frequently seems to say "blue" for red items, and "red" for blue items (although it seems more common for him to call something red blue than the other way around).

We have a color matching game where a spinner points to a color, and you discard a card with a balloon matching that color. I noticed that he had no problem matching the color on the spinner with the color of the card he was discarding, but he did call the red card blue.

When I correct him, he usually says "oh, yeah," and then starts referring to it by the right color.

Similarly, he'll sometimes ask for his favorite car by saying the blue car, even though it is fire-engine red.

Are these signs that he might be color-blind? I know that this is a fairly common thing, especially in males (I believe somewhere around 10% of men have some degree of color-blindness), so I'm not going to make a special trip to the doctor about it (although I'll mention it at our next scheduled wellness visit), but I'd like to know if I can find out on my own.

Is confusion between red and blue normal for color-blindness? Is there a way that I can test this and eliminate the possibility that he's just getting the words confused?

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I'm pressed for time hence a comment instead of an answer: (1) classical color-blindness, the type that's more prevalent in males, is about mixing red and green. Blue is on a different receptor in the retina, and does not normally get mixed up with red (perceptually). (2) I was reading about colors and kids recently, and I found that it's normal to be confused about colors even for four-year-olds! Colors seem simple to us but for some reason they're not for kids. So overall, I wouldn't worry about it :) –  Ana Jul 28 '13 at 12:24

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

There are color-vision tests designed for those who can't read or recognize numbers. You could try them. Here's one example, from rootsweb:

color test

(There's a large one at that link along with instructions about using it.) There are others too, just search for test color blindness toddler and you'll find them.

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My son saw the bear, and not the fox, so that's probably a "no" to color blindness (although he identified the deer/cow as a "kangaroo"!). Thanks, this was perfect, and a great tool! –  Beofett Jul 26 '13 at 14:45

You can probably figure this out by a simple genetic calculation. Color-blindness is a sex-linked recessive disorder on the X-chromosome. It typically doesn't manifest itself in females, but they can however be carriers.

Ask some questions about her side of the family and also yours.

  • Are you color blind?
  • Is your father color blind?
  • Is your wife's father color blind?

Go right on up the family tree and determine the genotypes of each member. Here is a link for further explanation.

Once you ask these questions, make a table for genotype probabilities in your potential children, i.e. you aren't color blind, but your wife's father was, meaning she could be a carrier.

Let X be dominant and x be recessive

      ------------------------------------
      | You (unaffected)                 |
      ------------------------------------
      |   |     X        |        Y      |
      ------------------------------------
M | C |   |              |               |
o | a | X |     XX       |       XY      |
m | r |   |              |               |
  | r |---|-------------------------------
  | i |   |              |               |
  | e | x |     Xx       |       xY      |
  | r |   |              |               |
      ------------------------------------

Based on that, you can tell you have a 50% of creating a male child who is color blind.

Apologies for the long winded answers. I don't want the money I spent on a Human Biology college elective to go to waste.

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I like the science of this, but a couple of factors I feel compelled to point out: x-linked traits can express themselves in females if the recessive trait is present on both x chromosomes. My father being color blind would not seem to factor in at all (admittedly, its been a few decades since I took genetics, so maybe I'm missing something here). Also, not all forms of color-blindness are actually sex-linked (e.g. tritanomaly). Still, +1 for the Punnett Square! –  Beofett Jul 26 '13 at 14:42

Color blindness usually makes it hard for those that have it to tell apart Red and Orange or Blue, Green, Black and Purple, but rarely does it mean the color blind person can't tell a warm color (red) and a cool color (blue) apart. So I'm guessing no to the color blindness.

Instead, he is probably just mis-speaking or getting his "wires crossed" as it were. If he still does this in another year or two, I'd be concerned, but at this point, kids often have these sorts of confusions from time to time. My daughter used to have frequent trouble with Mom and Dad, Cow and Donkey, 9 and 7, and Purple and Yellow, at about your son's age.

At the latter half of three, early fours, she'd still confuse them, but stop herself shake her head and laugh and correct her own mistake. She knew better, things just still came out wrong some of the time.

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My daughter is two, she does the same thing with red and blue. I was concerned for a while. But if you think about the number of arbitrary words your child is picking up, it makes sense that they would confuse some words some of the time. The best way I can think about it is when I am learning students names, if there are two students who are always together even if they don't look alike, I sometimes can't differentiate between them for a long time because they are always A and B together, but separate I know that they are either A or B but I don't necessarily know which. I always eventually figure it out, but it takes some time. So maybe, when our children were learning their colours they learned red and blue to close together and now have a hard time differentiating between the two.

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