Kevin Connolly

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20142015 Forum on Color

Kevin Connolly


Ph.D., University of Toronto, 2011

Kevin Connolly works on perceptual learning, cases in which a person (often an expert) perceives the world in an improved way because of prior exposure or practice. As a Mellon Fellow with the Forum, he is focusing on the role of expertise and learning in color perception. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow with the Network for Sensory Research, an interdisciplinary group of perception researchers with research hubs at Harvard, MIT, Toronto, London, and Glasgow. In 2011, he received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Toronto. Since then he has published in both philosophy and psychology journals, and at UPenn he is affiliated with both the Philosophy Department and with the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science. He is currently working on a monograph entitled Our Flexible Senses: A Study of Perceptual Learning. His work can be found on his website at

Learning to Perceive Color

Does a housepainter perceive color differently than a layperson because he possesses and deploys specialized color concepts? No. The reason, Connolly argues, is a matter of expert perception rather than expert cognition. What characterizes the changes in the perceptual systems of experts? Connolly argues that through experience, the perceptual systems of experts begin to modify and enhance their perceptions, allowing them to become better in their expert fields. Drawing on research in psychology, in which experience changes one’s color perception, he asks: How can we arrive at shared knowledge of color, given that our perceptual systems are flexible, and potentially divergent from one another?