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Graphology is the study of handwriting (see writing). Although many people refuse to accept graphology as a hard science, there is no denying that the technique is widely used.

A casual observer may be able to identify his acquaintances by their handwriting, and perhaps to detect changes in their emotional state, but many graphologists claim to be able to deduce personal information from the handwriting of strangers.

It is even possible, in some cases, to determine what part of the world the writer is from.

Table of contents

Laws of Graphology

  • The written movement is under the direct influence of the central nervous system which comprises the brain, the cerebellum and the spinal fluid. The form of the written movement is not modified by the writing organ (mouth, hand, foor, arm) if this functions normally and is sufficiently well adapted to its function.
  • When we write, the 'ego' is active but it is not always active to the same degree. Its activity comes and goes, waxes and wanes; being at its highest level when an effort has to be made by the writer and at its lowest level when the motion of the writing organ has gained momentum and is driven by it.
  • We cannot voluntarily modify our natural writing at any given time without putting into it the marks of the effort required to obtain the change.
  • The writer who writes under circumstances where the action of writing is particularly difficult, will instinctively use either the forms of letters which are most familiar to him, or forms of letters which are simplest and easiest to write.
  • The physiological mechanism which produces the written movement correlates with the state of the central nervous system and varies in accordance with it. The written strokes, therefore, correspond to the constitutional varieties of the nervous system and to the momentary modifications of each nervous system.
  • One must examine the significance of a handwriting trait by considering it as a physiological movement, and by comparing the quality, overall size, regularity, and consistency of energy with the corresponding psychological movement.
  • There are no independent signs; there are only general indications which may have different forms. The significance of these can be assessed accurately by tracing them back to their origins and adapting the meaning of the latter to the conditions of the milieu in which the form appears.
  • One graphological sign does not necessarily represent a single character trait. For example, rising handwriting may indicate ardour, activity, ambition, momentary joy or folly. The value of a sign depends upon its cause, its context and its intensity. Handwriting which slopes downwards for instance, may reveal a passing anxiety, habitual depression or simply bad positioning of the paper.

Principles of Graphology

The principles that one uses are based upon which approach one takes. The field is rife with practitioners of one approach calling practitioners of the other approach charlatans, frauds, and the like. Carroll v State [ 276 Ark 160; 634 SW 2d 99, 101-102 (1982) ] being a demonstration of just what each side resorts to, when push comes to shove, in the court room.

The approaches to handwriting analysis are:

  • Integrative Graphology

This is also known as 'fixed signs','trait stroke', 'French System' and Graphoanalysis®.

The basic theory is that stroke formations relate to specific personality traits. For example, the letter "t" with the bar crossing above the stem, indicates daydreaming. A crossing at the line indicates distant goals.

There is no published research indicating the accuracy of any of the specific traits used by any of these systems of handwriting analysis. There are some studies which imply that the approach as a whole has merit. Crumbaugh, James C & Stockholm, Emilie (1977) ("Validation of Graphoanalysis by 'Global' or 'Holistic' Method." Perceptual And Motor Skills April 1977, 44(2), 403-410.) being the most significant one.

[Add: Should traits and corresponding signs be listed here? methodology of graphoanalysis? Differentiation between Graphoanalysis, Crepieux-jamin, Michon and Trait Stroke? ]

  • Holistic Graphology

This is commonly, but incorrectly referred to as 'Gestalt Graphology'. Gestalt Graphology was a system of handwriting analysis developed circa 1920 in Germany.

In this approach a personality profile is constructed on the basis of combining different things in the script, such as polarity, margins, pressure and spacing.

[Add: Technical vocabulary? Muller-Enskat Protokol? Wittlich Character Diagram? Psychograph? Psychogram? ( which version - Anthony, Cole, Roman? )
Personal Worth Chart? ]

  • Symbolic Analysis

In this approach, one looks for symbols seen in the handwriting. For example, John Wayne's signature shows a blackened out portion, that represents his lung cancer.

[Add: Ralph Gologie; Max Pulver]

  • Integrative and Holistic Blends

[Add: Sisteme de Xandro; Sisteme di Moretti; Szondi]

Applications of Graphology

The most common applications of graphology are:

  • Employment Profiling;
  • Marital Compatibility;
  • Psychological Analysis;
  • Medical Diagnosis.

Employment Profiling

A company takes a writing sample provided by you, and proceeds to do a profile, to see how well your personality suits the desired job.

The research results range from failure ( Lighton, R E A Graphological Examination of the Handwriting of Air Pilots Thesis in the Faculty of Arts: University of Pretoria: 1934) to guarded success (Luca, E S "Major Aptitudes and Personality Chracteristics of 42 Dental Students as Evaluated Through their Handwriting." New York Journal of Dentistry 1973, 43, 281 - 283) The use of graphology in the hiring process has been criticized on ethical ground ( Daryl Koehn "Handwriting Analysis In Pre-Employment Screening" The Online Journal of Ethics Vol. 1 * No. 1 * Article 1 (http://condor.depaul.edu/ethics/ethg1 : Yes, I know it is a dead link. Find a mirror of it)) and on legal grounds ( Julie Spohn "The Legal Implications of Graphology" Washington University Law Quarterly Vol. 73 * No. 3 * Fall 1997)

An additional service, offered by some graphologists, is to say how well the person will fit in with your current employees. This is a twist on compatibility reports, discussed below.

Privacy Considerations

Very often graphologists will state that handwriting analysis in the workplace is legal, and cite any one or more of the following cases:
  • Gilbert v California
388 US 263-267 (1967)
  • US v Dionisio
410 US 1 (1973)
1973, Lawyers Edition, Second Series 35, 67
93 SC 774
  • US v Mara aka Marasovich
410 US 19 (1973)
  • US v Rosinsky
547 F 2nd 249 ( CA 4th 1977 )
  • United States v Wade
388 US 218, 221-223 (1967)

They are all related to obtaining samples for comparison with documents, sound recordings etc and used to determine whether or not the individual who provided the sample, is the same person as created the evidence that they have. Nothing to do with permission to do a psychological analysis is even implied.

Marital Compatibility

This consists of doing a psychological portrait of each individual, and seeing where their personality traits are incompatible. The theory is that knowing that each partner has different communication styles, thinking modes or whatever, the more likely they will be to either decide not to get married, and seek somebody more like them, or to get married, and stay married.

Psychological Analysis

It is claimed that people's handwriting gives clues to both their personality and their mental state. These reports can range from a ten item check off list, to a 10,000 word report.

Medical Diagnosis

Probably the aspect of handwriting analysis with the most quackery associated with it, and also with the most research done into it.

[Kanfer] claimed that he could detect cancer from an analysis of handwriting, years before doctors could detect it. Subsequent studies failed to support his findings.

[Somebody else needs to write the medical stuff. I haven't run a MEDLARS search recently, and don't have copies of the papers cited in there on graphology anymore. :-( ]

Non Graphological Applications of Handwriting Analysis

Criminal investigation

Graphology is sometimes used in a attempt to identify the writer of an anonymous piece of handwriting. This is better known as Questioned Document Examination [?].

What is the attitude of law courts to Questioned Document Examination?

Goodtitle Drevett v Braham 100 Eng Rep 1139 (1792) is probably the first case at which the testimony of a questioned document examiner was accepted.

What is the attitude of law courts to graphological reports for personality assessment?

Cameron v Knapp ( 520 NY 2nd 917, 917-18: New York Superior Court 1987 )
stands as current US case law for the rejection of graphology as psychological testimony.

Carroll v State probably will be best remembered for why graphologists should not be allowed to testify.


One's handwriting is believed by some to hold information about one's future. This application of graphology requires a belief in the supernatural.

The code of ethics for the International Graphoanalysis Society prohibits the practice of anything related to the Occult. This is one of the practices that is prohibited under that article.

== Libraries ===

The Handwriting Analysis Research Library
Greenfield MA
Curator: Robert Backman.

Appointments are required to visit the library. before you go, decide exactly what you are wanting to study. Be prepared to be overwhelmed. At the last count, they had 90 000 items in the various collection. See Also

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