Some students think that light transports colours

Light, Sound and Waves


Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

Resources to Address This

  • How we see colour (11-14)

    Ref - SPT Li04 PN04

    The human eye does not detect frequencies directly. So when we see red, we do not necessarily see a narrow range of frequencies corresponding to a fraction of a white light beam, whether this has been split by a prism or a fraction removed by filters.

    The differences between spectral colour and perceptual colour are explored.

    View Resource
  • Understanding colours (11-16)

    Ref - Practical Physics; Light and optics; Spectra and colour;

    Ask students how the filters make light coloured. Does the red dye change all parts of the spectrum to red, or does it just cut out other colours and leave the red that was always there in the white light? Is the dye a colour adder or a colour subtractor? Filters transmit their own colour and absorb the rest. They do not dye all the light with their own colour. They subtract colour.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Watts, D. M. () Student Conceptions of Light: A case study. Physics Education, 20, IOPScience,


    Review sheet

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