Pavlov's Couch

A Psychology Student's Mental Experience

Archive for the tag “handwriting”


Handwriting exampleSometimes when learning about all the valid theories it can also be valuable to learn about the debunked ones too. At the very least it gives a sense of history, and helps us avoid falling into holes other people have dug for themselves. Graphology is one such theory – the prediction or deduction of personality traits through the analysis of the handwriting of an individual. In fact most people have heard of a few graphology concepts, for example if someone writes with then end of the lines ending higher than the start (i.e. an upward slant) this is supposedly a sign that they are an optimist. Or if they write with a backwards slant (the tops of letters leaning to the left) they are introverted and withdrawn. In fact many of the ideas just seem to “make sense” to us, regardless of whether they are really scientifically proven predictors of personality or not – like the idea that someone who writes with large ornate style is a bit of an exhibitionist or someone who has a sharp angular style lacks the sympathy and agreeableness of someone who writes with very rounded writing.

In a 1987 study, graphologists were unable to predict scores on the Eysenck personality questionnaire using writing samples from the same people. In a 1988 study, graphologists were unable to predict scores on the Myers-Briggs test using writing samples from the same people. A 1982 meta-analysis drawn from over 200 studies concludes that graphologists were generally unable to predict any kind of personality trait on any personality test.


Indeed these ideas do just “make sense” to us, and wouldn’t it be lovely if by knowing these secrets we could actually predict if the potential new employee is hard-working, dedicated, intelligent, and logical? Or if we could gain some almost voyeuristic insight into the personality of someone we have taken a shine to, just by obtaining a sample of their handwriting. Heck, even knowing that the techniques have been disproven, I still find myself wanting to believe that all the above is possible! What really swings it for me though, and nails the hammer firmly into the coffin, are some of the more wild claims of graphology. Like printing an “s” in your handwriting is a sign of “talent”. Of course there is absolutely no qualifier about exactly what kind of talent we’re talking about here. Or how about the idea that if you write with a hitch in the lower loops of your letters, such as in the hanging part of a “y”, then it is a sign that you most probably have a physical disability in your lower body, like a limp or such.

But…I cannot shake the feeling that there must be *some* part of this that rings true. Not the personality prediction of course, but maybe on a more immediate level. Surely being in an aggressive mood would cause us to write differently from when you are calm? So maybe there is potential to say something about the state of mind of the writer at the time they produced the sample? We’ve seen such things in forensic profiling on shows like CSI and Criminal Minds of course, but do they stand up in the real world? And what of the supposedly distinctive scrawl of the schizophrenic hand? One website claimed that a French study had identified 10 characteristics of handwriting samples produced by schizophrenia patients that were statistically less likely to appear in the handwriting of a control group. Could handwriting be used as a diagnostic tool for neurological disorders?

I don’t know, but I’m sure someone has done the research already and now I just need to find it!

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