“The Write Stuff” (Graphology)


Graphology is studying someone’s handwriting in an attempt to analyze their character and personality traits. Spirograph-ology is using multiple shapes and colors to create designs and is much more fun. But it has nothing to do with skeptic issues, so it’s back to graphology.

The graphologist will look at loops, dots, crosses, slants, spacing, and strokes, then try to use them as a graphite gateway to discern a person’s characteristics. The most obvious deduction about someone writing two pages by hand is that they are severely anachronistic.

In graphology, there is no peer review, uniform theory, or agreed upon standards, and it relies on claims that aren’t falsifiable. As such, the attributes associated with it vary widely, and include the ability to detect a person’s illnesses, morality, memories, past experiences, and hidden talents. Because of these competing theories, graphology claims are difficult to gauge. I found one graphologist online who claimed the technique could be as revealing as astrology, palm reading, and Tarot cards, a point which I must concede.

If doing a one-time analysis, the graphologist will typically employ the technique of sympathetic magic, also known as Like Affects Like. As applied to graphology, this means asserting simple ideas such as an introvert’s writing tilting to the left, while an extrovert’s tilts to the right. Presumably, this is reversed in Hebrew. The graphologist may claim that a dot directly over the ‘i’ indicates practicality, while an off-center dot means creativity. Sometimes, sinister motives are asserted, such as a slanted crossed ‘t’ being said to resemble a whip, indicating sadism. Looking at my writing, a sloppy living room might be correctly deduced.

If a person sees the same graphologist regularly, the graphologist will expand his claims of insights into the subject’s personality. What might seem like increased potency of graphology is really just the tester getting to know the subject better. It is similar to cold reading, only a little easier since some information has been given by the writer. Graphologists will say behavior and personality continually change as a cover against giving contradictory information. Or they will propose taking handwriting samples for analysis over many months so as to gather more information about personality traits. But it is being around the person (and their money) that reveals the personality, not the penmanship.

When the graphologist no longer has the luxury of reading the subject’s original words, the ability vanishes. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Union conducted one of few controlled blind studies of graphology. In the test, subjects wrote not on issues important or relevant to them, but simply copied from a magazine. In this study, the graphologists were no better at predicting personality traits than chance.

As to why a civil liberties group was concerned with the topic, it is because graphology can be used to deny someone employment. Despite there being no empirical evidence or research showing that graphology can determine a person’s abilities or personality, some companies use it when hiring workers. But the only way graphology can determine a potential employee’s compentence is if the applicant signs his name with an X.

Alleged successes are due to confirmation bias and communal reinforcement. I’m unsure where to find a graphologist, but per the online man referenced above, you can probably find one if you read some Tarot cards creatively enough.

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