Robert Todd Carroll
Graphology is the study of handwriting, especially when employed as a means of analyzing character. Real handwriting experts are known as forensic document examiners, not as graphologists. Forensic document examiners consider loops, dotted "i's" and crossed "t's," letter spacing, slants, heights, ending strokes, etc. They examine handwriting to detect authenticity or forgery.
Graphologists examine loops, dotted "i's" and crossed "t's," letter spacing, slants, heights, ending strokes, etc., but they believe that such handwriting minutiae are physical manifestations of unconscious mental functions. Graphologists believe such details can reveal as much about a person as astrology , palmreading, psychometry, or the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator. However, there is no evidence that the unconscious mind is a reservoir of truth about a person, much less that graphology provides a gateway to that reservoir.
Graphology is claimed to be useful for everything from understanding teenagers to marriage guidance, from criminal detection to the diagnosis of illness.[PCCS] However, "in properly controlled, blind studies, where the handwriting samples contain no content that could provide non-graphological information upon which to base a prediction (e.g., a piece copied from a magazine), graphologists do no better than chance at predicting... personality traits...." [The Use of Graphology as a Tool for Employee Hiring and Evaluation ] And even non-experts are able to correctly identify the gender of a writer about 70% of the time. [Furnham, p. 204]
There are a variety of techniques used by graphologists. Even so, the techniques of these "experts" seem to be reducible to impressions from such things as the pressure exerted on the page, spacing of words and letters, crossed t's, dotted i's, size, slant, speed and consistency of writing. Though graphologists deny it, the content of the writing is one of the more important factors in graphological character assessment. The content of a message, of course, is independent of the handwriting and should be irrelevant to the assessment.
Barry Beyerstein  considers many of the notions of graphologists to be little more than sympathetic magic, e.g., the notion that leaving wide spaces between letters indicates a proneness to isolation and loneliness because the wide spaces indicate someone who does not mix easily and is uncomfortable with closeness. One graphologist claims that a person betrays his sadistic nature if he crosses his t's with lines that look like whips.
Since there is no useful theory as to how graphology might work, it is not surprising that there is no empirical evidence that any graphological characteristics significantly correlate with any interesting personality trait.
Adrian Furnham writes
Graphology is another pipe dream of those who want a quick and dirty decision making process to tell them who to marry, who did the crime, who they should hire, what career they should seek, where the good hunting is, where the water, oil, or buried treasure is, etc. Graphology is another in a long list of quack substitutes for hard work. It is appealing to those who are impatient with such troublesome matters as research, evidence analysis, reasoning, logic and hypothesis testing. If you want results and you want them now and you want them stated in strong, certain terms, graphology is for you. If, however, you can live with reasonable probabilities and uncertainty, you might try another method to pick a spouse or hire an employee.
If on the other hand, you don't mind discriminating against people on the basis of pseudoscientific non-sense, then at least have the consistency to use a ouija board to help you pick the right graphologist.
Basil, Robert. "Graphology and Personality: `Let the Buyer Beware'," in The Hundreth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal,ed. Kendrick Frazier (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1991), pp. 206-208.
Beyerstein, Barry. "Graphology," in The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal edited by Gordon Stein (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1996), pp. 309-324. $104.95
Beyerstein, Barry and Dayle F. Beyerstein, editors, The Write Stuff - Evaluations of Graphology, the Study of Handwriting Analysis (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1991). $21.56
Furnham, Adrian. "Write and Wrong: The Validity of Graphological Analysis," in The Hundreth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal,ed. Kendrick Frazier (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1991), pp. 200-205.
Gardner, Martin. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1957), ch. 24.
Robert Todd Carroll
|Last updated 11/29/98|