What Is Graphology?

A method of determining the character and/or personality of a writer through a study of his or her script. The term is derived from the Greek words "Grapho," meaning "I write" and "Logos," meaning word, language or statement. Graphology was a term coined by Abbe Michon in 1872 to refer to the art and science of Handwriting Analysis.

Handwriting can be viewed as a social activity, as finger and hand movements which result in strokes, and as letter shape formations. Writing a letter or note to someone is a social activity involving interpersonal communication. An image in the writer's mind of the person to whom the letter is being written influences the writer's behavior in ways which vary according to the writer's personality.

Writers habitually form letter shapes in characteristic ways. The formations of different writers vary in respect to the type of the letter form as well as in respect to size, width, height and style. Specific characteristics of the handwriting indicate the presence of correspondingly distinct personality traits. The written document thereby provides a foundation for drawing psychological conclusions about the writer. Finger and hand movements involved in writing result in strokes which can be fast, slow, straight, round, long, short, heavy, powerful, lively, fiery, thin, soft, sleepy and/or clumsy. The psychological meanings of these strokes are often implied by the words used to describe them.

What Is The History and Current Status of Graphology?

Trait-stroke graphology, like psychology, was rooted in the study of philosophy. In 300 B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle conveyed his understanding of the relationship between handwriting and personality when he said, "Spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols of spoken words. Just as all men have not the same speech sounds, so all men have not the same writing."

The study of handwriting was also mentioned during the times of the Roman Empire. Tranquillus, the biographer of Augustus Caesar, wrote that the Emperor's cramped handwriting showed his stingy nature. Later, in the 1600's, an Italian physician named Camillo Baldi wrote the first known treatise on handwriting. However, it was not until 1872 that two French monks, Abbe Michon and Abbe Flandrin began a systematic study of handwriting and published the results. In later years, graphology was adopted in Germany, and, around the turn of the century, came to the United States.

In the early part of the twentieth century, graphology was a major force in Europe. It was taught in universities as part of the psychology curriculum, and at one time it was said that 80% of the businesses in France and Germany used it in employment selection. However, during World War II, Ludwig Klages, a prominent German graphologist who was friendly with Hitler, was instrumental in getting all schools of graphology but his own outlawed in all of Europe. Since his method was entirely intuitive (only he knew how he did it), many graphologists were forced out of business. Since the war, graphologists have resumed their study, and at the present time, it is experiencing a resurgence of popularity. Graphology groups and organizations are springing up in England, Spain, Switzerland, France, Hungary, Iceland, The Netherlands, as well as in Singapore, Israel, China, Japan and other countries around the world.

Is Graphology An Art Or A Science?

Graphology is generally considered to be both an art and a science. The scientific basis of graphology rests on the careful measurement and documentation of numerous aspects of the handwriting. The art of graphology lies in the interpretation of those measurements, intuitive assessments of the overall writing picture, reporting of the results and use of the information.

This distinction between art and science can also be made in reference to the use of standardized tests for personality assessment (and many other applications as well). The scientific basis of using standardized assessment tests lies in the standardization and validation studies used to develop a particular testing instrument and the standardized procedures for test administration. The art of using standardized assessment tests lies in the selection of a particular instrument (and test battery) to measure a specific area, the skill of the test administrator to interpret the test results, report them clearly and use the information constructively to make life-impacting decisions.

Is Graphology Valid And Reliable?

Validity and reliability is determined by statistically establishing that "we are measuring what we think we are measuring, and if we did it again, we would get the same results." There is a wealth of material available on graphological research, theory, trait-stroke relationships, and effective real-world applications. Ongoing scientific research in graphology continues to be conducted by individual investigators and programs conducted under the auspices of professional graphological organizations such as the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation. Such projects include double-blind studies examining the statistical relationships between handwriting characteristics, observational ratings, performance evaluations, neurophysiological measures and standardized personality, interest and ability test scores (e.g., Hartford, 1973 and Wellingham-Jones, 1987, 1991). Additional information on recent studies and the current status of graphology can be found in the reference materials listed in the Bibliography. Rigorous certification programs have been instituted, and increasing numbers of individuals with advanced degrees in psychology or counseling are deciding to become Certified Graphologists (CG) and Certified Master Graphologists (CMG).

How Is Graphology Used?

While there are numerous applications for Graphology, probably its most common use in the United States is in pre-employment profiling. A large percentage of handwriting professionals are hired by businesses to provide behavioral profiles on job applicants, to help determine whether they are a good match for the job and the work environment.

Presently, the incidence of use of handwriting analysis around the world is quite high (Hirsh, 1987). In 1992, Smith and Abrahamson reviewed methods of personnel selection in six European countries between 1983 and 1991 and found increasingly frequent use of graphology for the selection and promotion of key employees (particularly in France). Sharma and Vardhan (1985) suggest that 85% of European selection decisions may involve the use of graphology, and Klimoski and Rafaeli found in 1983 that over 3000 companies in the United States retained handwriting analysts.

Graphology is also used in vocational guidance (to help individuals find their most suitable career paths and make other informed career planning decisions), counseling (where the information is used to help focus psychotherapy on the resolution of personality issues), compatibility matching of potential partners, business associates or co-workers, and self-assessment.

How Does One Become A Graphologist?

Several non-profit organizations exist to promote education and research in handwriting. Some of the most prominent are the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, American Association of Handwriting Analysts, and National Society for Graphology. The American College of Forensic Examiners includes handwriting analysts among many other forensic disciplines. The National Association of Document Examiners is an organization for handwriting analysts with a graphological background who also work in forgery identification

Unfortunately, it is extremely rare to find a school where graphology is taught for credit. Accredited universities such as the New School for Social Research and Northwestern University have offered approved courses in graphology within their respective psychology departments. There are some private teachers who provide courses through community colleges or night schools, or who teach in their homes. There are also some excellent correspondence schools with training available by mail.

For more information on graphological organizations, graphology schools, training programs, and certification requirements

How Do I Locate A Qualified Analyst?

Qualified analysts can be located by contacting professional graphology associations, schools who have trained analysts, referrals from businesses or others who have utilized such services and the yellow pages of the phone directory.

How Does A Handwriting Expert Differ From A Handwriting Analyst?

A Handwriting Expert specializes in the forensic aspect of this field by identifying signatures and other writings to determine whether they are forgeries or valid for the stated purposes. A Document Examiner is another speciality focusing on ink, paper and typewriter identification. A Document Examiner does not consider personality, but examines two or more handwriting samples to determine whether they were written by the same individual.

A Handwriting Analyst specializes in identifying personality traits for various applications including business, counseling, compatibility and vocational assessments.

What Are The Costs Of Graphology Services?

Fees can range from $50 to $500 or more for normal business requests and will vary in accordance with the experience and training of the analyst. Typically, in the area of personality assessment, analysts are considered to be business consultants who utilize the technique of handwriting analysis in their evaluations.

What Does Handwriting Analysis Reveal About A Person?

Handwriting Analysis can provide an accurate picture of the core personality of the writer in general. Sometimes, it is also possible to obtain some remarkably specific insights. While handwriting tells a great deal about the writer and gives many clues to their potentials, fears, and areas for development, it is only one part of the personality puzzle which must be considered along with other information.

When people have their handwriting analyzed, they receive revealing information about themselves from an analyst who may examine nothing more than their signature or a few sentences scribbled on a piece of paper. To the superstitious, it is as if the Handwriting Analyst has mysterious occultic powers. Handwriting analysis has nothing to do with the occult and does not attempt to foretell the future. It does, however, reveal an individual's personality through handwriting at a particular point in time. Knowledge of handwriting can help anticipate behavior patterns. In that sense, predictions can be made about how someone might behave in a given situation and how they might react to particular stimuli in the future.

Does Handwriting Change?

Most people develop their own handwriting style after a few years of practice and change it during their life span, as their personality changes. While some handwriting elements are basic to the very nature of the writer and are chosen unconsciously, others are more superficial and can change with circumstances. Slant and middle zone size are the most common indicators which can change with mood. For example, if you are excited or angry, your writing is more likely to grow in size and slant more to the right. If you are sad, depressed, or concentrating, your writing might shrink and slant more upright. The things that are not likely to change with mood are the spatial arrangement and the basic movement across the page.

When writers experiences major life changes, their handwriting will usually make some adjustment to reflect the manner in which these experiences were integrated into their personality. Some changes are temporary and some are more permanent, but you are likely to notice that your handwriting has changed in accordance with events in your life, either good or bad.

Many graphologists have found that in the same manner that life events can change handwriting, so can changes in handwriting produce changes in personality. The practice of Grapho-Therapy, a counseling technique which changes handwriting style to induce beneficial changes in the writer's attitude and/or behavior, is based on the notion that changing handwriting will change personality. Grapho-Therapy consists of a program of writing or drawing exercises, sometimes set to music, which is used to facilitate desired changes in undesirable personality traits.

Do Males And Females Write Differently?

A writer's gender cannot be determined by examination of the handwriting sample. A common belief is that the writing of a female might somehow look more "feminine" than the writing of a male; however, there have been numerous examples of either a man's handwriting which seems very flowery and curvy, or a woman's handwriting which seems to have no delicacy at all. Potential sources of bias based on gender, ethnic background, religious affiliation or nationality do not affect handwriting analysis.

Why Are People's Signatures Often So Different From The Rest Of Their Writing?

The signature of an individual reveals only what the writer wants people to see. The text, or body of the writing, reveals the basic personality of the individual. If we were to measure the congruence of signature and text on a 10 point rating scale, with higher numbers representing higher congruence, the scores for Congruent Signature would rarely exceed a score of 8, and only occasionally would the score drop to 5 or below.

Many factors are taken into consideration when signatures are compared with text: the size and shape of the capital letters, middle zone size, upper zone extension height and lower zone length, upslant above the baseline, downslant in the middle zone and lower zone, formation of all letters, narrowness and fullness of the various letters, spacing between letters, ending strokes and beginning strokes of words, underscoring, speed, pressure, and any other variation that may be apparent. As these variations between signature and text are identified and interpreted, you will be able to determine many of the differences between the way the person wants to be seen by others and the way he or she really is

My Handwriting Is So Sloppy. I Hate To Show It To People!

If they are asked to produce handwriting samples for analysis, many writers express concern about the illegibility of their "penmanship." When we first learn to write in school, we are evaluated on the basis of how well our writing compares to standard handwriting patterns. This feeling of being evaluated on the basis of how "good our writing looks" is carried over by many into adulthood and can stimulate feelings of inadequacy and fears of rejection when producing a writing sample for analysis.

Handwriting analysis is not "penmanship" and concerns itself with measurable characteristics of the handwriting formations, not how "good the writing looks" (with the exception of determining the overall form level of the writing). Writers deviate in varying ways from the standard handwriting patterns they were taught in school, and these deviations from Copybook become a standard basis for comparison.