The Lüscher Color Test

Amelia Nennstiel

Student Projects, Color

 

Introduction

Color has existed ever since life began, but it has not been truly known about until about one hundred years ago. The psychology of color is used by manufacturers and advertisers to help sell products. Take sugar, for example. Manufacturers of sugar know to not use green in their packaging, but rather blue. Do they know why? To the typical human being, the color green is associated with a feeling of 'astringence,' while blue is associated with 'sweetness.' Consequently, using blue packaging would enhance sales through color psychology.

Colors have been associated with life, at the most basic, night and day, forever. Man has been faced by darkness and light since the beginning of time, and these two environments have been associated with dark-blue for the night sky and bright yellow for the daylight ever since. The dark-blue of night brought a time when action ceased and man rested, while the bright yellow of daylight brought about action and energy. Therefore, dark-blue is "the color of quiet and passivity" (Lüscher 11), and bright yellow is "the color of hope and activity" (Lüscher 11). To this man, action took on two forms, either hunting or defending himself. The color red represents the actions of attack; defense and self-preservation are known by green, its complement. These four colors, blue, yellow, red, and green, are the basic colors in the Lüscher test.

The Lüscher Color Test has two versions, the full test and the short or quick test. For our purposes, the short test will be satisfactory, considering the full test contains seventy-three color cards of twenty-five hues and shades and requiring forty-three selections. The short test uses only eight color cards, but is still of good value in its purpose of locating areas of psychological stress and learning about unique aspects of an individuals personality. As I have said, the four 'psychological primaries' are blue, yellow, red, and green. The other four, the 'auxiliary colors,' are violet, brown, grey, and black.

 

 

The Lüscher Color Test

Instructions for taking the color test when eight numbered and colored cards are available:

1. Shuffle the eight cards and place in front of you, color side up.

2. Decide which of the eight colors you like best, but do not associate any color with something else. Choose the color you like the most.

3. Place the chosen card, number side up, above and to the left of the seven remaining.

4. Choose the color you like best of the ones left and place it number side up to the right of the previous choice.

5. Repeat step 4 with the rest of the color cards, until you have a row of eight numbered cards with the one on the left your first choice and the one on the right your last choice.

6. Write down the numbers of the cards in order from left to right on a piece of paper.

7. Re-shuffle the cards and lay them color side up in front of you again.

8. Repeat steps 2 through 6, but do not purposely try to make the same selections as you previously did. Choose as if you were seeing them the first time.

9. Write down these numbers below your first selections on the same piece of paper.

Now you are able to use your selections to evaluate the associated interpretations.

 

The Eight Positions

When taking the test, the subject decides which color he likes most and places the remaining in descending order. By looking at this order, the particular 'function' a color represents can be determined, because the placement of the eight colors is 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" (Lüscher 20-21). The following symbols are used to show this:

Marked preference for a color Symbol + (plus sign)
Preference for a color Symbol X (multiplication sign)
Indifference towards a color Symbol = (equals sign)
Antipathy or rejection of a color Symbol – (minus sign)

With the colors in order of preference, the following 'functions' can be used for their placements.

1st Position - This is the most-liked color; it represents a "turning towards" and is shown by the plus sign. "It shows the essential method, the modus operandi, of the person choosing it, the means which he turns to or adopts to enable him to achieve his objective" (Lüscher 21).

2nd Position - This is also usually marked by the plus sign, but can also be indicated by a multiplication sign depending on the grouping of the sequence. If used with a plus sign, it shows what the objective really is. When with a multiplication sign, it means something different (see 3rd and 4th positions below).

3rd and 4th Positions - These two are usually marked by a multiplication sign 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" (Lüscher 22).

5th and 6th Positions - Being the 'indifference' color choices, these are indicated by the equals sign. Colors in this area show that their characteristics are not being rejected, but simply set aside and not currently in use; they could be brought into use at any time if need be.

7th and 8th Positions - These colors represent a 'turning away from' and are marked by a minus sign. These are the colors that are most disliked and "represent a need which is suppressed out of necessity" (Lüscher 22).

 

The Eight Colors

Basic Colors

Blue (1) - Represents "Depth of Feeling" and is concentric, passive, incorporative, heteronomous, sensitive, perceptive, and unifying. Its affective aspects are tranquility, contentment, tenderness, and love and affection.

Green (2) - Represents "Elasticity of Will" and is concentric, passive, defensive, autonomous, retentive, possessive, and immutable. Its affective aspects are persistence, self-assertion, obstinacy, and self-esteem.

Red (3) - Represents "Force of Will" and is ex-centric, active, offensive-aggressive, autonomous, locomotor, competitive, and operative. Its affective aspects are desire, excitability, domination, and sexuality.

Yellow (4) - Represents "Spontaneity" and is ex-centric, active, projective, heteronomous, expansive, aspiring, and investigatory. Its affective aspects are variability, expectancy, originality, and exhilaration.

Auxiliary Colors

Violet (5) - Mixture of red and blue, and therefore has properties of both. Represents "Identification" and looks for reality in everything thought and desired. Violet is enchantment and wants a magical relationship.

Brown (6) - Relates to bodily senses. Its placement in the row indicates the body's condition.

Black (7) - Expresses the idea of nothingness, as it is the negation of color itself. It represents renunciation, the ultimate surrender of relinquishment.

Grey (0) - Being that it has no color, not dark nor light, it represents non-involvement and concealment.

 

Grouping

Grouping and marking of the sequences depends on the number of times the test is taken. If taken only once, the groupings are in pairs with the first two marked +, the next pair X, the third =, and the last pair –. For example, if the sequence were as follows: 1st, blue; 2nd, yellow; 3rd, violet; 4th, green; 5th, red; 6th, grey; 7th, brown; and 8th, black— then the sequence would be grouped and marked as follows:

1
4
5
2
3
0
6
7
+
+
X
X
=
=

If possible, though, it is preferred to make a second selection which should me made within a few minutes after the first, but with no attempt to reproduce the first sequence. After making the second selection, it is probable that some of the numbers will be transposed, while others will move either forward or back in the row, while still others will remain in the same position. Where at least two colors may have changed position, but still lie alongside each other as in the first sequence, a group exists. This group is encircled (or color-coded in this case) and is marked with a function sign. For example, the following grouping and markings would be made for these sequences:

3
1
5
4
2
6
0
7
3
5
1
4
2
6
7
0
+
X
X
=
=
=

For the second selection, the groups would be: + 3 X 5, X 1 = 4, = 2 = 6, – 7 – 0. These groups should then be interpreted.

 

Color Pair Meanings

Alone, each pair of colors has a meaning that does not relate to its position in the row. These interpretations vary depending on which function is involved with the particular group, but in general, with a group-meaning "M", then:

Group marked + means
"Wants to be or to have 'M'"
or
"Must be or must have 'M'"
Group marked X means
"Is being 'M' or feels in an 'M' situation
or
"'M' behavior is the most appropriate"
Group marked = means
"'M' behavior is inappropriate at present"
or
"'M' is in reserve or under restraint"
Group marked – means
"Does not want to be or to have 'M'"
or
"Feels unable to be or to have 'M'"

Most groups are in pairs, though some are only a single color. There are 56 color pairs, of whose descriptions I will not include, but can be found in The Lüscher Color Test.

 

Interpretation Tables

Five tables are used to interpret the meaning behind the Lüscher tests' sequences. I will also not include these tables due to their extraordinary length and detail, but I will give a brief summary of what each table says. They are also included in The Lüscher Color Test.

Table I The + Functions Desired Objectives, or Behavior Dictated by Desired Objectives
Table II The X Functions The Existing Situation, or Behavior Appropriate to the Existing Situation
Table III The = Functions Characteristics under Restraint, or Behavior Inappropriate to the Existing Situation
Table IV The – Functions Rejected or Suppressed Characteristics, or Anxiety-Laden Characteristics
Table V The + – Functions The "Actual Problem," or Behavior Resulting from Stress

 

A Quick Look at Stress Concluded from Color Order

Because the four basic colors represent psychological needs, they should be placed within the first five positions. If they do not, then this indicates a possible psychological or physiological problem, worsened if the basic color is placed further back in the sequence. If a basic color is placed further back than the fifth position, then that particular need is being unsatisfied. This is therefore a 'stress-source,' causing anxiety and deprivation.

This is a very simple overview of how stresses are realized. More detailed analyses can be found in The Lüscher Color Test.

 

Conclusions

Studies have been conducted in an effort to check the validity of the Lüscher Color Test. The majority of the results found it to disprove accuracy of the test, but several studies showed validity to hold true in assessing personality. In my own analysis, I found the results from the test given at the link below to be a quite accurate description of my present personality.

Several studies have concluded that more in depth studies are needed to decipher the accuracy in the meanings of the test and psychological and psychiatric disorders. When tests were compared between 'normal' persons and persons with psychiatric disorders, the results did not vary in any convincing way. Consequently, no conclusions can be drawn.

Links

Lüscher Color Test
Take the test to learn your individual results and see if you agree. Follow this link, then click on the link titled Color Test, and then Take the Test. The results from this test only take into account the second color order sequence; it does not use the grouping and interpreting techniques explained here, but simply color order combinations.

Lüscher Color Diagnostic
Learn the history behind Dr. Max Lüscher's Color Test at his website. (Click on English where it says Language on the left.)

Other References

Burdick, Bruce M., et al. "The Relationship between Color Preference and Psychiatric Disorders." Journal of Clinical Psychology 41.6 (1985): 746-749.

Carmer, James C., Ray A. Craddick, and Edward W. L. Smith. "An Investigation of the Luscher Color Test Personality Descriptions." International Journal of Symbology 5.2 (1974): 1- 6.

Lüscher, Max. The Lüscher Color Test. Ed. Ian Scott. New York: Random House, 1969.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to the Reference Librarians and ATC staff.