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HANDWRITING ANALYSIS

Key Words:
Forensic dentistry, forensic odontology, bite mark analysis


See Also:

FORENSIC DENTISTRY

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DNA FINGERPRINTING

FORENSIC SCIENCE

SCIENCE OF FINGERPRINTING

Graphology is the study and analysis of handwriting especially in relation to human psychology. In the medical field, it can be used to refer to the study of handwriting as an aid in diagnosis and tracking of diseases of the brain and nervous system. The term is sometimes incorrectly used to refer to forensic document examination.

Graphology has been a controversial field for more than a century. Although supporters point to the anecdotal evidence of thousands of positive testimonials as a reason to use it for personality evaluation, most empirical studies fail to show the validity claimed by its supporters.[1][2]

Basic tenets

Graphology is based upon the following basic assertions:

  • When we write, the ego is active but it is not always active to the same degree. Its activity 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.
  • When the action of writing is comparatively difficult, the writer uses those forms of letters which are simpler or more familiar.
  • The muscular movements involved in writing are controlled by the central nervous system. The form of the resultant writing movement is modified further by the flexibly assembled coordinative structures in the hand, arm, and shoulder; which follow the principles of dynamical systems. The specific writing organ (mouth, foot, hand, crook of elbow) is irrelevant if it functions normally and is sufficiently adapted to its function.
  • The neurophysiological mechanisms which contribute to the written movement are related to conditions within the central nervous system and vary in accordance with them. The written strokes, therefore, reflect both transitory and long term changes in the central nervous system such as Parkinson's disease, or alcohol usage.
  • The movements and corresponding levels of muscular tension in writing are mostly outside of conscious control and subject to the ideomotor effect. Emotion, mental state, and biomechanical factors such as muscle stiffness and elasticity are reflected in a person's handwriting.
  • One must examine the handwriting or drawing movements by considering them as movements organized by the central nervous system and produced under biomechanical and dynamical constraints. Given these considerations, graphologists proceed to evaluate the pattern, form, movement, rhythm, quality, and consistency of the graphic stroke in terms of psychological interpretations. Such interpretations vary according to the graphological theory applied by the analyst.
  • Most schools of thought in graphology concur that a single graphological element can be a component of many different clusters, with each cluster having a different psychological interpretation. The significance of the cluster can be assessed accurately by tracing each component of the cluster back to their origins and adapting the meaning of the latter to the conditions of the milieu in which the form appears.

Some Basic Examples

A sampling from various popular Graphology books [3] [4] provide these interpretations:

Handwriting Characteristic Interpretation
Slant of the letters
  • A forward slant indicates high emotional expressiveness
  • Vertical handwriting indicates moderate, restrained emotional expression
  • A left slant indicates emotional withdrawal.
Angle of the lines on unlined paper
  • An upward slant indicates optimism and higher energy.
  • A downward slant or lines with trail off the page indicate low energy or physical exhaustion.
General shape of the strokes
  • Circular handwriting indicates an agreeable, easygoing nature.
  • Angular handwriting with sharp points indicates aggressiveness, directness, and high energy
  • Square handwriting indicates a real world, practical based approach
  • Squiggles and irregular strokes indicate an artistic and non standard approach
Individual letters
  • The letter "t" has the largest number of interpretations. For example where the horizontal "bar" of the t is placed on the vertical "stem" indicates where one places their goals, while the height of the t stem indicates the potential to accomplish those goals.
  • A low t bar indicates goals set lower than what can be accomplished.
  • A t bar high on the stem indicates goals set high.
  • A t bar that is above the stem indicates setting goals higher than can be accomplished.
Pressure applied on the paper while writing
  • The emotional intensity behind a person's behavior. The heavier the pressure, the more intense the emotions of that person.

Approaches to graphology

Integrative graphology 
This approach holds that specific stroke structures relate to personality traits. Most systems within this approach use a cluster of stroke formations, to score a specific personality trait. Systems that fall under this umbrella are: fixed signs, trait stroke, French System and Graphoanalysis. It has been described as starting from the inside, and working to the outside.
Holistic graphology 
This is commonly, but incorrectly referred to as Gestalt Graphology. Gestalt graphology was a system of handwriting analysis developed circa 1915 in Germany and was related theoretically to Gestalt psychology. In this approach (Holistic Graphology) a profile is constructed on the basis of form, movement and space. It has been described as starting from the outside, and working to the inside. In this approach, individual traits, such as legibility, are not assigned specific meanings, but can take on different meanings depending on the overall context.
Symbolic analysis 
In this approach, one looks for symbols seen in the handwriting. This can be either Major symbolism, or Minor Symbolism.
  • Major symbolism is the meaning ascribed to the stroke, as it related to the page.
  • Minor symbolism ascribes a meaning to the stroke, depending upon the picture that the stroke draws. For example, John Wayne's signature shows a blackened out portion, that represents his lung cancer.
This approach provides the theory that underlies both Holistic Graphology, and Integrative Graphology. Max Pulver[5]

[6] [7] [8] is the best known exponent of this system.

Systems of handwriting analysis

Each approach to handwriting analysis has spawned several different systems.

  • Integrative Graphology
    • Graphoanalysis was the most influential system in the United States, between 1929 and 2000.
    • Sisteme de Xandro.[9][10][11]
  • Holistic Graphology
    • The psychogram[12][13][14] is the only system to have been taught as part of an academic degree, at an accredited institution in the United States .
    • The Personal Worth Chart was developed by Handwriting Consultants of San Diego[15] during the early eighties.
    • The psychograph [16] was developed by Leslie King during the seventies.
    • Wittlich Character Diagram.[17][18]
    • Muller - Enskat Protokol[19][20]
    • Szondi
    • Girolamo Moretti [21][22]

Training

The only academic institutions in the world that currently offer an accredited degree in handwriting analysis are:

  • The University of Urbino, Italy: MA (Graphology)
  • The LUMSA University in Rome, Italy: BA (Graphology)
  • Emerson University College, Buenos Aires, Argentina: BA (Graphology)

Training in the United States

Between 1940 and 1995, New School for Social Research, in New York City, offered a diploma in Graphology. At its peak, the diploma course took 8 semesters, and also included Forensic Document Analysis. This diploma did not have academic accreditation.

From 1970 to 2000, one could obtain a Graphology track Associate Arts Degree from Felician College, in Lodi, NJ. This was the only academic institution in the United States to have offered graphology for an accredited academic degree.

Training in the United States is currently available through correspondence courses. The quality of instructions varies considerably. Look for instructors that have a successful track record in teaching handwriting analysis.

Writing systems

The majority of material in the field is oriented towards the Latin Writing system. Courses offered in the subject reflect that bias.

Before taking any course, or certification, ensure that it is usable for the local writing system.

Certification

There is no certification that is generally recognized, either within or without the field. Certifications are invariably linked to the organization one belongs to, and are no longer recognized when one resigns from the organization.

Vocabulary

Every system of handwriting analysis has its own vocabulary. Even though two or more systems may share the same words, the meanings of those words may be different. The technical meaning of a word used by a handwriting analyst, and the common meaning is not congruent. Resentment, for example, in common usage, means to feel or exhibit annoyance. In Graphoanalysis, the term indicates a fear of imposition.[23][24]

History

Prospero Aldorisio's [25] 1611 manuscript is probably the first book to describe how to analyze handwriting. The major contender is Camilo Baldi's manuscript [26] which was unofficially published in 1622. The 1625 edition was probably the first authorized edition of Baldi's book.

Around 1830 Abba Michon became interested in handwriting analysis. He published his findings [27] [28] shortly after founding Sociate Graphologique in 1871. The most prominent of his disciples was J. Crapieux-Jamin who rapidly published a series of books [29] [30] that were soon published in other languages [31] [32]. Starting from Michon's integrative approach, Crapieux-Jamin ended up with a holistic approach to graphology.

Alfred Binet was convinced to do research into graphology from 1893 to 1907. He ended up calling it "The science of the future", despite graphologists' rejecting the results of his research.

After World War I, interest in graphology continued to spread in Europe as well as the United States. In Germany during the 1920s, Ludwig Klages founded and published his finding in Zeitschrift fur Menschenkunde (Journal for the Study of Mankind). His major contribution to the field can be found in Handschrift und Charakter [33][34].

Thea Stein Lewinson and J. Zubin modified Klage's ideas, based upon their experience working for the U.S. Government, publishing their method in 1942[35].

In 1929 Milton Bunker founded The American Grapho Analysis Society teaching Graphoanalysis. This organization and its system split the American graphology world in two. Students had to choose between Graphoanalysis or Holistic Graphology. Whilst hard data is lacking, anecdotal evidence indicates that 10% of the members of International Graphoanalysis Society(IGAS) were expelled between 1970 and 1980 [36]. By the time Peter Ferrera died in 1991, the decimation of IGAS members had resulted in a decline of the influence of Graphoanalysis, and IGAS on American graphology.

Klara G. Roman was the most prominent of the German refugee scholars. Her books are still considered to be foundations for contemporary American Holistic graphology. She taught at the New School for Social Research in New York, and was succeeded there by Daniel S. Anthony and Florence Anthony.

Handwriting Workshops Unlimited was organized by Charlie Cole as a series of lectures for advanced students of Graphoanalysis. These lectures featured holistic graphologists such as Thea Lewinson and Klara Roman. By 1960 all of the participants had been expelled by IGAS. These individuals went on to form the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation. Later mass expulsions of IGAS members led to the formation of other societies, such as the American Association of Handwriting Analysts that were orientated towards Holistic graphology.

In 1972 talks between the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation and the American Association of Handwriting Analysis started, with the aim to form a single organization. Those talks resulted in the creation of the Council of Graphological Societies in 1976.

Since the rise of the Internet in the early 1990s, the graphology organizations have suffered major declines in membership. However, due to email lists, communication between graphologists representing different approaches has increased.

Validity

The scientific foundation of graphology can be documented in reviews of the literature, such as Fluckinger, Tripp & Weinberg(1961) [37] , Lockowandte (1976) [38] and Nevo(1986)[39].

Crumbaugh & Stockholm[40] is one of the studies that supports handwriting analysis.

A larger number of studies such as Ben-Shakar, Bar-Hillel, Blum, Ben-Abba, & Flug[41] indicate that graphology has little or no validity.

Specific objections

  • The Barnum effect and the Dr Fox effect [42]. These phenomena make it difficult to validate methods of personality testing. These describe the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. See, for example, Tallent(1958)[43]. Non-individualized graphological reports give credence to this criticism.
  • Effect Size: Dean's(1992)[44][45] primary argument against the use of graphology is that the effect size is too small. Beyerstein & Beyerstein (1992) surveyed studies finding no validity to interpretations of handwriting analysis, concluding that handwriting analysis was useless at best. However according to a paper by Marcel which criticizes their findings, they neglected to note the challenges involved in evaluating any complex motor behavior, and, in particular, they ignored glaring problems in research design, methodology, operational definitions, and assumptions of the studies cited in support of their argument
  • Vagueness: One of the key points of attack for critics is the ease with which a graphologist can alter the "rules." Formniveau, for example, interprets a sign positively if the individual is high status, and negatively if the individual has low status
  • Applications of graphology

Employment profiling

A company takes a writing sample provided by an applicant, and proceeds to do a personality profile, matching the congruency of the applicant with the ideal psychological profile of employees in the position.[64]

A graphological report is meant to be used in conjunction with other tools, such as comprehensive background checks, practical demonstration or record of work skills. Graphology supporters state that it can complement but not replace traditional hiring tools.

Research in employment suitability has ranged from complete failure [65] to guarded success.[66] The most substantial reason for not using handwriting analysis in the employment process is the absence of evidence of a direct link between handwriting analysis and various measures of job performance[67]

The use of graphology in the hiring process has been criticized on ethical grounds[68] and on legal grounds.[69]

Business compatibility

This is an additional service offered by some handwriting analysts. The focus of these reports can be one, or more of the following:

Company-wide 
This is a report the describes how compatible the individual is, with each employee in the company.
The average company employee 
For this report, the mean, mode, and median scores of every scored data point , for the entire company are used, to create three hypothetical employees. The individual is then compared to these three employees, with the focus being how good a fit the individual is.
Division wide 
This is a report that describes how compatible the individual is, with each employee in the division.
The average division employee 
For this report, the mean, mode, and median scores of every scored data point , for the entire division are used, to create three hypothetical employees. The individual is then compared to these three employees, with focus being how well the individual will fit into the existing company psychodynamic profile.
Unit wide 
This is a report the describes how compatible the individual is, with each employee in the unit.
The average unit employee 
For this report, the mean, mode, and median scores of every scored data point , for the entire unit are used, to create three hypothetical employees. Those are then compared to the applicant, with a focus on how good a fit the individual is.
The unit manager / Co-worker 
This explores the differences in personal style between a manager/co-worker and potential employee. The end result is on how each can maximize productivity and minimize personal friction.
Composite reports 
This explores the difference in personal style between every employee in a group. The idea is for each member of the group to learn not only their own strengths and weakness, but also those of their co-workers, and how they can more harmoniously work together. The resulting reports not only deal with the individual on a one-to-one level within the group, but also each individual as a part of a group of three, four, five, etc people within the group.

The content of these reports can range from a simple perspectrograph, to a four wheel Wittlich Diagram and accompanying twenty five thousand word analysis.

Psychological analysis

These reports can range from a ten item check off list to a 25 page report on the makeup of an individual from the perspective of Freudian Psychoanalysis, Transactional Analysis[70], or another personality theory.

A major value of a graphological analysis lies in the increased understanding of people and the ability consequently to enjoy improved relationships both personally and professionally.[71]

Medical diagnosis

Medical graphology [72] is probably the most controversial aspect of handwriting analysis. Strictly speaking, such research is not graphology as described throughout this article but an examination of factors pertaining to motor control. Research studies have been conducted in which a detailed examination of handwriting factors, particularly timing, fluidity, pressure, and consistency of size, form, speed, and pressure are considered in the process of evaluating patients and their response to pharmacological therapeutic agents. [73]. These study of these data points is a byproduct of researchers investigating motor control processes and the interaction of nervous, anatomical, and biomechanical systems of the body.

Alfred Kanfer published several papers[74][75] whose implication was that cancer could be detected using detailed examination of handwriting under the microscope, prior to standard medical tests available at the time. Kanfer reported successful results but subsequent efforts to replicate the studies were unsuccessful.

The Vanguard Code of Ethical Practice, amongst others, prohibits medical diagnosis unless one is also licensed to do diagnosis in the state in which they practic

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