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

Critics cite the lack of supporting empirical evidence as a reason to not use it for personality evaluation. Supporters point to the anecdotal evidence of thousands of positive testimonials as a reason to use it for personality evaluation.

One may also say that graphology is an orthographical study, embracing the ideas that writing systems operate on style and form.

Basic tenets

Graphology is based upon a number of basic assertions:

  • When we write, the 'ego' is active but it is not always active to the same degree. Its activity comes and goes, 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.
  • The writer who writes under circumstances where the action of writing is especially difficult, will instinctively use either the forms of letters which are more familiar to him, or forms of letters which are simple and easy to write.
  • The written movement is under the direct influence of the central nervous system. The form of the written movement is modified further by flexibly assembled coordinative structures in the hand, arm, and shoulder, which follow principles of dynamical systems. This writing movement is not modified by the writing organ ( mouth, hand, foot, arm ) if this 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 momentary and long term changes in the central nervous system such as the influence of alcohol, and disease processes, such as Parkinson's disease.
  • 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 one graphological sign 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.

Approaches to graphology

Integrative graphology
This approach holds that specific stroke formations 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. 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.
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(1931)[1] is the best known exponent of this system.

Systems of handwriting analysis

Each approach to handwriting analysis has spawned several different systems.


The academic institutions in the world offering accredited degrees in handwriting analysis are:

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

Training in the United States is available through correspondence courses. Both the quality, and legality of graphological courses vary tremendously. The situation in other countries is not much different.

Writing systems

The majority of material in the field is oriented towards the Latin Writing system.

  • In Israel, it is a safe assumption that the Hebrew, Latin, and Cyrillic Writing systems will be covered.
  • For Eastern Europe, and Russia, it is a safe assumption that either the Latin and Cyrillic Writing system or only the Cyrillic Writing system will be covered.
  • For Western Europe, North America, and South America, it is a safe assumption that only the Latin Writing system will be covered.
  • For the rest of the world, the odds are that only the Latin writing will be covered. This may, but usually is not applicable to the local writing system.

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


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.


"Every system of handwriting analysis has its own vocabulary. Even though two or more systems may share the same words, the meaning of those words is different. Except in very rare instances, the technical meaning of a word used by a handwriting analyst, and the common meaning are not congruent. Resentment, for example, in common usage, means to feel or exhibit annoyance. In Graphoanalysis, the term indicates a fear of imposition."[21]


The scientific foundation of graphology can be documented in reviews of the literature, such as Fluckinger, Tripp & Weinberg(1961) [22] , Lockowandte (1976) [23] and Nevo(1986)[24]

Going through the published research, Crumbaugh & Stockholm[25] stands out as being one of the few studies that supports handwriting analysis.

Far more common are studies such as Ben-Shakar, Bar-Hillel, Blum, Ben-Abba, & Flug[26] which indicates that graphology has little or no validity.

Specific objections

  • The Barnum Effect -- which is a problem for validating most, if not all methods of personality testing. See, for example, Tallent(1958)[27] on clinical evaluations, and how easily they can become non-individualized.
  • Related to this is the Dr Fox Effect[28] and the Aunt Fanny Effect. Both of these are also side effects of graphology having extremely high face validity. These can only be overcome by individual handwriting analysts learning how to write individualized graphological reports. The Institute of Graphological Science in Dallas, Texas offers as part of its 2nd Level Certification an extensive and detailed instruction on writing an individualized graphological report, it is to be found in the Level 2 Manual, chapter 17, pages 273-291, and the IGAS Certified Graphoanalysis Course also comes close to doing so, by providing what is colloquially called The Green Sheet.
  • Effect Size: This is Dean's(1992)[29] only substantial argument against the use of graphology. The effect size is too small. In other words, for a specific individual, it possibly is not useful. For a large group, it can be useful. A survey of the studies he cites, shows glaring problems in research design, methodology and assumptions that the experimenters made about handwriting analysis.
  • Vagueness: One of the key points of attack for critics is the ease with which a graphologer can alter the "rules". Formnivieau, for example, interpretates a sign positively, if the individual is high status, and negatively, if the individual has low status.

Legal considerations


Very often graphologists will state that handwriting analysis in the workplace is legal, and cite one or more of the following cases:

  • Gilbert v California :388 US 263-267 (1967)
  • US v Dionisio :410 US 1 (1973) 1973, Lawyers Edition, Second Series 35, 67; 93 SC 774
  • US v Mara aka Marasovich :410 US 19 (1973)
  • US v Rosinsky :547 F 2nd 249 ( CA 4th 1977 )
  • United States v Wade :388 US 218, 221-223 (1967)

They are all related to obtaining samples for comparison with documents, sound recordings etc and used to determine whether the individual who provided the sample, is the same person as created the evidence that they have.

Nothing to do with permission to do a psychological analysis is implied.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Many graphologists will claim that handwriting analysis is non-discriminatory, since it cannot determine Gender, Age, Ethnicity, or other EEOC Protected Classes.[30] Thus far, there have been no studies demonstrating that the use of handwriting analysis in employment does not have a disparate impact upon EEOC protected classes.

There have been a number of studies on gender and handwriting, since Binet(1898)[31]. Uniformly the research indicates that gender can be determined at a significant level. The published studies on ethnicity, race, age[32][33], nationality [34], gender orientation, weight, and their relationship to handwriting have had mixed results, with a tendency to indicate that they can be determined from handwriting.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

One of the rules of thumb in human resources is that if an individual who has an ADA-defined disability cannot take a test, then nobody can. As a result, tests that cannot be adapted for use by those individuals will not be used by a company.

Handwriting clearly falls into the group of tests that cannot be adapted to be administered to individuals who fall within one or more ADA-defined disabilities. Blind people, for example, do not develop the required fluency in handwriting, for the writing to be correctly analyzed.

Questions that Handwriting Analysts ask,before doing an analysis, can be illegal under this act.[35]

Applications of graphology

The most common applications of graphology are:

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.[36]

A graphological report is meant to be used in conjunction with other tools, such as comprehensive background checks and practical demonstration of work skills. Of the traditional tools used in the hiring process, the only one that graphology can replace is the job interview.

Research in employment suitability has ranged from complete failure [37] to guarded success[38]

The use of graphology in the hiring process has been criticized on ethical grounds[39] and on legal grounds.[40]

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:

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 10 000 word report on the makeup of an individual from the perspective of Freudian Psychoanalysis, Transactional Analysis[41], 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.[42]It complements psychometric assessment because they each come from different directions according to the International Graphology Association.

Marital compatibility

In its simplest form, only sexual expression, and sexual response are examined. At its most complex, every aspect of an individual is examined for how it affects the other individual(s). The basic theory is that knowing, and understanding how each other are different, any commitment that is made, will be more enduring. Whilst these are typically done for couples, it is not unknown for a polyamourus group to obtain a report, prior to the commitment ceremony of a new individual, into the group.

In cultures where arranged marriage are common, graphology can be used as an additional checkpoint on the compatibility of the couple, prior to the elders giving their consent for the marriage to take place.

Medical diagnosis

Medical graphology [43] is probably the most controversial aspect of handwriting analysis. On one end, are research studies in which handwriting is used as one data point in making a clinical diagnosis[44]. On the other end of claims made by graphologists, which have neither research, nor theory to support them.

Alfred Kanfer published several papers [45] [46] whose implication was that cancer could be detected using handwriting analysis, prior to the then standard medical tests. Subsequent studies failed to support his findings.

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 practice.

Jury screening

A graphologist is given handwriting samples of a prospective jury and determines who should be struck, based upon their alleged personality profile. After the trial has begun, the graphologist advises counsel on how to slant their case, for the most favorable response from the jury.[47]


This is the practice of changing a person's handwriting, to change their personality. It was pioneered in France during the nineteen-thirties, spreading to the Unites states in the late fifties. [48]

The "therapy" consists of a series of exercises which are similar to those taught in basic calligraphy courses. There have been anecdotal reports of these exercises curing everything from drug addiction to anorexia nervosa, and back to borderline personality disorder.

Forensic document examination

This discipline is better known as questioned document examination within the judicial system. This is used to determine whether or not a document was written by the person who is thought to have written it. As such, this is not an aspect of graphology.

Goodtitle Drevett v Braham 100 Eng Rep 1139 (1792) is reportedly the first case at which the testimony of a questioned document examiner was accepted.

Graphology in court testimony

Cameron v Knapp, 137 Misc. 2d 373, 520 N.Y.S.2d 917 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 1987) (handwriting expert may testify as to the authenticity of a writing but not as to an individual's physical or mental condition based on a handwriting sample) stands as current U.S. case law for the rejection of graphology as psychological testimony.

Carroll v State [276 Ark 160; 634 SW 2d 99, 101-102 (1982)] probably will be remembered for reasons why no graphologists should be allowed to testify. Both sides demonstrated that graphology has no scientific basis. In doing so, they also displayed a distinct lack of professional courtesy to members of the other side. Their calling of each other charltans, frauds, and the like demonstrates both the antagonism, and lack of common ground that the major approaches in handwriting analysis have to each other.


Some individuals believe that one can tell the future from handwriting analysis. Others believe that a handwriting analyst can provide spiritual guidance on situations that they face. Reasons why these beliefs are claimed to be false range from the complete lack of either scientific or anecdotal evidence, to the application of Aristolean logic to any of the numerous (and mutually incompatible) theories of handwriting analysis.

The code of ethics for the International Graphoanalysis Society, British Association of Graphology, and Association Déontologique Européenne de Graphologie prohibits the practice of anything related to the occult.


  1. Pulver, Max Symbolik der Handschrift 1931; Zurich, Orell Füssli: 1945 (4th Edition)
  2. Roman, Klara G Handwriting: The Key to Personality
  3. Cole, Charlie (1961-1968) Handwriting Analysis Workshop Unlimited: Professional Quantitative Graphology HAWU: Campbell, CA
  4. Handwriting Consultants of San Diego (1983) Personal Worth: Intermedite Course in Handwriting AnalysisSan Diego, CA
  5. King, Leslie W. (1978) Graphology Handbook for Tyros or Pros Salt Lake City, UT: Books of Merit (Revised Edition)
  6. Wittlich, Bernard Angewandte Graphologie Berlin: 1948
  7. Wittlich, Bernard Graphologische Charakterdiagramme Munich: 1956
  8. Wittlich, Bernard Graphologische Praxis Berlin: 1961
  9. Wittlich, Bernard Krisenhafte Pubertät im SchriftbildMunich: 1964
  10. Müller, Wilhelm H & Enskat, Alice Mensch und Handschrift. Lehrbuch der Graphologischen Deutungstechnik zum Selbstunterricht Berlin: Munz: 1941
  11. Müller, Wilhelm H & Enskat, Alice Theorie und Praxis der Graphologie Band I: Allgemeine Graphologie Rudolstadt: Greifenverlag: 1945
  12. Müller, Wilhelm H & Enskat, Alice Angst in der handschrift Berlin: Woldemar Hoffman: 1951
  13. Müller, Wilhelm H & Enskat, Alice Graphologische Diagnostik. Ihre Grundlagen, Möglichkeiten und Grenzen Bern: Verlag Hand Huber: 1961
  14. Moretti, Girolamo Trattato Scientifico di Perizie Grafiche su base Grafologica Verona: L'Alberto: 1942
  15. Moretti, Girolamo Heiligen, Beoordeeld Naar Hum Handschrift Haarlem-Heemstede: uitgeverij De Toorts: 1959. 190 pages
  16. Moretti, Girolamo Die Heiligen und Ihre Handschrift Heidelburg: 1960. 255 pages
  17. Moretti, Girolamo Il Corpo Umano Dalla Scirttura. Grafologia Somatica Ancona: Studio Grafologico: 1960. third edition
  18. Xandró, Mauricio Psicologia y Grafologia Havana: Ed de Conf y Ensayos: 1949 Barcellona: Miracle: 1949
  19. Xandró, Mauricio Abecedario Grafológico Onate: Aránzazu: 1954
  20. Xandró, Mauricio Grafología Tratado de Iniciación Barcellona: Studium: 1955
  21. IGAS department of Instruction (1964) The Encyclopedic Dictionary for Graphoanalysis Chicago, IL: International Graphoanalysis Society(First Edition)
  22. Fluckwinger A, Tripp,Clarence A & Weinberg, george H (1961). A Review of Experimental Research in Graphology: 1933 - 1960. Perceptual And Motor Skills ?? (12): 67–90.
  23. Lockowandte, Oskar Present status of the investigation of handwriting psychology as a diagnostic method. Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 1976, 6, 4-5.
  24. Nevo, B Scientific Aspects Of Graphology: A Handbook Springfield, IL: Thomas: 1986
  25. Crumbaugh, James C & Stockholm, Emilie (April 1977). Validation of Graphoanalysis by "Global" or "Holistic" Method. Perceptual And Motor Skills 44 (2): 403–410.
  26. Ben-Shakar, G., Bar-Hillel, M., Blum, Y., Ben-Abba, E., & Flug, A. (1986). missingtitle. Journal of Applied Psychology 71: 645–653.
  27. Tallent, N (1958). On Individualizing the Psychologists's Clinical Evaluation. Journal of Clinical Psychology 14: 243–244.
  29. Dean, Geofrrey A The Bottom Line: Effect Size in Beyerstein & Beyerstein (1992)
  30. Barrow, N K & Scott, R H Validation of a Personnel Selection System to meet EEOC Guidelines. Journal Of Handwriting Psychology 1984, 1 (1), 15-17
  31. Binet, Alfred L La sexe de l'ècriture. La revueOctober 1903: 17-34
  32. Binet, Alfred L L'âge et l'écriture La Revue des Revues 1904, 484(4), 182-195; 326-341
  33. Binet, Alfred L. La Graphologie et Ses Révélations sur le sexe, l'âge et l'intelligence. L'Année Psychologique 1904: 10, 179-210
  34. Blumenthal, E Schulschriften der Verschiedenen Länder. Beihefte zur Schweizerischen Zeitschrift für Psychologie undihre Anwendungen.1959, 31, 1 - 116
  35. Disparate Impact |
  36. | BPI
  37. Lighton, R E (1934). "A Graphological Examination of the Handwriting of Air Pilots". University of Pretoria.
  38. Luca, E S. (1973). Major Aptitudes and Personality Chracteristics of 42 Dental Students as Evaluated Through their Handwriting. New York Journal of Dentistry 43: 281–283.
  39. Daryl Koehn. Handwriting Analysis In Pre-Employment Screening. The Online Journal of Ethics 1 (1).
  40. Julie Spohn (Fall 1997). The Legal Implications of Graphology. Washington University Law Quarterly 73 (3).
  41. Chimera, Mary Ann The Conflict Traits and TA Script Issues: Sensitiveness Impact Magazine July 1980, 39, 1 - 3
  42. Moretti, Girolamo Trattato Scientifico di Perizie Grafiche su base Grafologica Verona: L'Alberto: 1942
  43. |Profiles and Limits of Medical Graphology
  44. Kopp, W., G. Paulson, J. Allen,D. Smeltzer, F. Brown & W. Kose Parkinson's Disease: L-dopa Treatment and Handwriting Areas; Current Therapeutic Research Vol 12, 3, 115-124, 1970.
  45. Kanfer, A. & Casten, D. F. Observations on disturbances in neuromuscular coordination in patients with malignant disease. Bulletin of the Hospital for Joint Diseases 1958, 19, 1-19 $#Journal Health Sciences 616.7206 N485b
  46. Hartford, Huntington You Are What You Write New York: McMillan: 1973
  47. |Kimon Iannetta
  48. de Sainte Colombe, Paul Grapho Therapeutics: Pen and Pencil Therapy Hollywood, CA: Laurida Books: 1966 Hollywood, CA: Paul de Ste Colombe Center: 1972. Revised edition

See also

Systems of handwriting analysis


Organizations of handwriting analysts

Related fields

  • Questioned document examination
  • Calligraphy
  • Graphonomics
  • Doodles


External links


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