Handwriting Analysis (Graphology)

Handwriting analysis, otherwise known as graphology, is a tool used in psychology to study people's personalities or possible psychological disorders via their handwriting. Graphology is not scientifically proven despite numerous instances of accuracy.

Graphology has been a point of interest since ancient Greece and Rome. It was not until the 1920s that graphology reached scientific proportions. Ludwig Klages, a German psychologist, first analyzed graphology in psychological terms when he published the book Journal for the Study of Mankind. He developed theories regarding the rhythm and form level of handwriting and whether or not those aspects contribute to bi-polar interpretation. Max Pulver, Robert Heiss, Rudolph Pophal, Rhoda Wieser and the Mueeler-Enskat team furthered Klages' theories, asserting that handwriting expresses an individual's innate personality traits.

The aspects of handwriting that graphologists take into account include the spacing between words and lines, the size of the letters, words or numbers and the slants of the letters. Handwriting is prompted by the central nervous system and can reflect issues in the central nervous system such as Parkinson's disease or high alcohol consumption. The muscular movements involved in handwriting are mostly independent of conscious control. A person's emotional and mental state can contribute to variances or regularities in his or her handwriting. The writing rhythm is something each individual establishes by rote over time, making it difficult for to suddenly change one's handwriting.

There are multiple theories in the field of graphology, but all will interpret the pattern, rhythm, style, movement and consistency of a person's handwriting. Yet many graphologists insist that handwriting analysis cannot reveal gender, age or ethnicity. A number of court cases in America allowed graphologists to testify as to the authenticity of a piece of writing. Yet the U.S. Supreme Court Case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals determined what criteria testimonial evidence is supposed to meet (being accepted in the scientific community, verifiable) and handwriting analysis falls short of these requirements.

Graphologists claim that handwriting indicates clusters of traits such as reliability, consistency, devotion, integrity and responsibility. Some psychologists assert that handwriting analysis can expose sexual deviations, narcissism, lack of self-control or adaptability. Managers looking to hire new employees will look for candidates who are team players, are able to cope with stress and know how to deal with people.

The average person may think that there is some logic to graphology; a neat, organized person normally has neat, organized handwriting. Yet numerous studies, including the British Psychological Study, have equated graphology with astronomy, saying that there is no scientific or psychological validity to the field. Graphologist Erik Rees maintains that if graphology is used at all in psychological evaluation, it should be used alongside other tests. He said, "Handwriting is the unplanned reflex movements of the brain. If you had to write with a pen in your mouth or between your toes, your style would still be the same." According to Rees, a viable graphologist must be a skilled graphologist and should be able to discern personality traits such as creativity, sincerity, ambition, dishonesty and persistence.

Employers seeking new employees will often have experts analyze potential employees' handwriting. They will examine the candidate's handwriting so as to determine his or her personality, whether or not that personality will fit in with the work environment and potential job performance. Graphology is used for this purpose all over Europe and is gaining momentum in America.

Many question the validity of handwriting analysis, especially in the professional world. Human resource research conducted by John Bernardin and Joyce Russell discovered certain discrepancies. Many researchers have disqualified graphology as a valid method of employment protocol, yet managers in thousands of firms continue to use it.

Donald B. Super first discounted handwriting analysis in 1941. He had students in a psychology class take a psychological test or personality inventory and then offer their handwriting for a graphologist's examination. Super noted that the graphologist failed to take into account each student's interests and cognitive abilities and misinterpreted students' level of self-confidence.

Research has been limited in this area and researchers are still trying to come up with reliable ways of testing the validity of graphology. Yet all research regarding handwriting analysis indicates that the theories are moderately reliable at best. There is no positive evidence that there exists a direct correlation between graphology and measures of job performance. Some claim that graphology is more an art than a science, that accurate graphology is based more on the graphologist's intuition than on empirical evidence.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Art of Graphology
Marie Bernard; Jeanne M. Reed.
Whitston, 1985
Handwriting Analysis and the Employee Selection Process: A Guide for Human Resource Professionals
Kathryn K. Sackheim.
Quorum Books, 1990
The Write Stuff: What the Evidence Says about Using Handwriting Analysis in Hiring
Thomas, Steven L.; Vaught, Steve.
SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 66, No. 4, Autumn 2001
Emerging Growth Companies and the At-Risk Employee: The Viability of Pre-Employment Honesty Testing
Hornsby, Jeffrey S.; Kuratko, Donald F.; Honey, William.
SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 57, No. 4, Autumn 1992
Taboo Topics
Norman L. Farberow.
Atherton, 1963
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Graphology"
Sexual Deviations as Seen in Handwriting
Marie Bernard.
Whitston, 1990
Personality and Social Behaviour
Adrian Furnham; Patrick Heaven.
Arnold, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Perosonality and Handwriting" begins on p. 288
Left-Handedness: A Writing Handicap?
Peachey, Ian.
Visible Language, Vol. 38, No. 3, September 1, 2004
Basic Processes in Reading: Visual Word Recognition
Derek Besner; Glyn W. Humphreys.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Additive and Interactive Effects of Repetition, Degradation, and Word Frequency in the Reading of Handwriting"
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