The name “Functional Psychology” has been given to the theories relating color choice to personality psychology. In the Luscher Color Test, the “structure” of a color is constant; it is defined as the “objective meaning” of that color and remains the same for everyone—dark-blue, for instance, means “peace and quiet” regardless of whether one likes the color or dislikes it.
The “function,” on the other hand, is the “subjective attitude towards the color”and it is this which varies from person to person. It is the “function” on which the test interpretations are based. One person may like a particular color, another may find the same color boring, a third may be indifferent to it, while a fourth may find it definitely distasteful.
In the test, the person being tested (or testing himself) selects the colors in descending order of preference; the color he likes best and places in the first position is thus the one for which he has the greatest sympathy; that which he chooses last and places in eighth position is the one for which he has greatest antipathy (or least sympathy).
By observing where in the row a color occurs, we can determine what “function” the particular color represents, since the subjective attitude towards the various colors varies from greatest to least sympathy.
At the beginning of the row the attitude is one of decided preference, followed by an area which is still one of preference but is less marked; next comes an area regarded as “indifference” followed by the final area, which is one of antipathy or rejection.
Symbols are used to mark these areas, as follows:
Strong preference for a Symbol + (plus sign) color
Preference for a color Symbol X (multiplication sign)
Indifference towards a Symbol = (equals sign) color
Antipathy or rejection of Symbol — (minus sign) a color
The Significance of the Eight Positions
Bearing in mind that it is necessary to group the color selections correctly and then to mark up the appropriate symbols, the following attitudes or “functions” can be generally established when the eight colors have been placed in their order of preference:
The most-liked (sympathetic) color represents a “turning towards” position and is indicated by the + sign (plus). It shows the essential method, the modus operandi of the person choosing it, the means which he turns to or adopts enabling him to achieve his objective.
For example, with dark-blue in this position the modus operandi would be “calmness.”
This also is usually indicated by the + sign position (plus), in which case it shows what the objective actually is. With dark-blue in this position for instance, the goal for which he is striving is “peace and quiet.”
Depending on the grouping and marking up of the actual test, however, the and position may be marked with an X (multiplication sign), in which case it has a different meaning (see 3rd & 4th positions below). Where only the color in the 1st position is marked with a +, then the modus operandi and the objective are the same—in other words, the adopted means has become an end in itself.
Thus, a person is usually calm because he wishes to achieve some particular objective through being calm, such as ensuring that reason should prevail or maintaining a stable environment; but where dark-blue is the only color marked with a + sign, then calmness has become an end in itself.
3rd & 4th
These are usually indicated by the multiplication-positions sign (X) and show the “actual state of affairs,” the situation in which he actually feels himself to be, or the manner in which his existing circumstances require him to act. Dark-blue in these positions would show that he feels he is in a peaceful situation or in one in which it is necessary for him to act calmly.
5th & 6th
These represent “indifference” and carry the positions indicator of the = sign (equals). Colors in this area show that their special qualities are neither being rejected, nor are they especially appropriate to the existing state of affairs. Instead they are being held in reserve, as it were, set aside in safekeeping and not currently in operation.
An “indifferent” color is thus an unestablished state, suspended as inappropriate, but is in reserve and can be brought quickly back into operation again at any time when circumstances change. Dark-blue in one of these positions shows that “peace” has been suspended so that an unpeaceful or irritating situation can he brought under control, or at least made more tolerable.
7th & 8th
These are indicated by the — sign (minus) positions and represent a “turning away from.” Colors which are rejected as unsympathetic represent a particular need which there is some special reason for inhibiting, since not to do so would be disadvantageous. In other words, these colors represent a need which is suppressed out of necessity.
With dark-blue in one of these positions, for example, the need for peace has to remain unsatisfied because—due to unfavorable circumstances—every relaxation, every surrender, every attempt to bring about closer and more harmonious relationships would have unsatisfactory consequences.
If the interpretations in the Tables are read in conjunction with these descriptions it is possible to arrive at an exhaustive analysis satisfactory both to the average reader and to the specialist.
Interpreting the Functions
It can be seen that the color itself does not change its basic meaning—the structure remains constant. Its position in the row, however, alters considerably the interpretation which must be placed on it when analyzing the personality characteristics revealed by the test. These interpretations are given in the Tables at the end of this book.
Every profession which may make use of this test has its own special jargon; not only the psychologist and the marriage guidance counselor, but also the psychiatrist, the physician, the educational specialist and the criminologist. Each might wish to have these Tables expressed in his own jargon.
Additionally, special wordings might be considered desirable for age and sex for sociological condition and for diagnosis, whether for medical purposes or for the purposes of occupational guidance. To attempt to do this would seriously overload the Tables, and these have therefore been kept as condensed as possible; where the words “he, him, himself” occur, they should be interpreted as “she, her, herself wherever it is appropriate. This avoids the awkwardness of “he (or she)” and so forth.
To augment the general nature of the Tables, so that more comprehensive and specialized interpretations can be arrived at where this is desired, relatively complete descriptions of the structural meanings of each of the eight colors are given in Chapter 6.