Science

Did You Know The Color You See When You Close Your Eyes Isn’t Black? It’s A Different Color.

And don’t be alarmed if you have a tough time saying the color’s name.

Alex Bentley
4 min readApr 6, 2022

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Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash.

Ask 100 people this question:

“What color do you see when you close your eyes?”

And you’ll likely hear the same response.

Black.

I don’t blame them. Most people would guess black is the color we see when we shut our eyelids.

After all, that’s what’s been taught to us since we were kids. But did you know that the color we see isn’t actually black?

In fact, it has a different name. A scientific-sounding name. And we’ll get to it in just a few moments.

First, though, let’s dispel the notion that when we close our eyes, we see blackness.

Because we don’t.

The Science Behind The Color We See With Closed Eyes

What we actually see isn’t a pure black slate. And there’s a reason for this.

The reason has to do with the way our eyes work.

You see, our eyes have something called rods and cones.

Rods handle our peripheral and night vision. They don’t register color.

But cones are what let us see the colors of the world. They’re found in the center of our eyes. And when a person has cells in their cones that don’t function properly, they have color blindness — the inability to see colors accurately.

Now, when it’s dark, or we close our eyes, our rods take over. And because they don’t register color, what we see appears to be black.

But it’s not a true black.

It’s a dark gray. A very dark gray. So dark that it appears to be black.

This dark gray color has a name. It’s called Eigengrau.

Eigengrau is German for “intrinsic gray.” And it’s the color that our eyes see when they’re adjusting to the darkness. The same darkness we experience when we enter a dark room without a light. Or through the act of closing our eyelids…

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Alex Bentley

I write about crypto, personal finance, business & tech. Also, I publish a bit of humor to make you laugh.