Graphology is the study of handwriting and its connection to behavior, personal information and other human traits. Many graphologists claim to be able to deduce personal information from the handwriting of strangers, including such things as determining where a person is from. Although graphology is widely used in both unofficial and official capacities around the world, it is scorned by many scientists due to a shortage of supporting empirical evidence.


Basic tenets

Graphology is based upon a number of basic assertions:

  • When we write, the 'ego' are active but not always active to the same degree.
  • We cannot voluntarily modify our natural writing without putting into it the marks of the effort required to obtain the change.
  • Writing under difficult circumstances produce either the forms of letters which are most familiar, 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.
  • There are no independent signs; there are only general indications which may have different forms.
  • 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. Such vagueness is one of the key points of attack for critics, since most graphology "rules" can apparently be altered at the whim of the test-giver.

Graphology 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 in the courtroom.

Types of graphology

  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Applications of graphology

The most common applications of graphology are:

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.

Research results in this area 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 ) and on legal grounds ( Julie Spohn "The Legal Implications of Graphology" Washington University Law Quarterly Vol. 73 * No. 3 * Fall 1997)

According to the BBC, 3,000 employers in the United Kingdom use graphologists as part of their recruitment process.

Psychological analysis

Some graphologists claim 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. There is little scientific support for the belief that handwriting provides useful information about personality. Graphologists' judgments of personality are no more accurate than the judgements of people in general, given the same writing sample (Ben-Shakar, G., Bar-Hillel, Blum, Y., Ben-Abba, E & Flug, A., Journal of Applied Psychology, 1986 (71), 645-653)

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.

Criminal investigation

A discipline of handwriting analysis better known as questioned document examination is used extensively within the United States court system in order to identify or eliminate an individual as being the writer of a particular piece of handwriting - which has no direct connection to the claims of graphology.

Goodtitle Drevett v Braham 100 Eng Rep 1139 (1792) is reportedly the first case at which the testimony of a questioned document examiner was accepted. Cameron v Knapp, 137 Misc. 2d 373, 520 N.Y.S.2d 917 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 1987) (handwriting expert may testify as to the authenticity of a writing but not as to an individual's physical or mental condition based on a handwriting sample) stands as current U.S. 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.


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.

See also

External links

es:Grafología fr:Graphologie he:גרפולוגיה nl:Grafologie pl:Grafologia fi:Grafologia


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