Graphology: science or unnecessary fuss?

While your signature appears to be the source of important information about you, your handwriting could reveal even more – at least according to the proponents of graphology. Your signature is “meant for others” but when you write in a notebook or diary, you do not need to pretend or play a role. But how well does your handwriting reflect your personality? What does it reveal about you? This question has been on the minds of many for a long time. This article is brief summary about what graphology is, how it developed and what it is good for, if anything.

The name of the study of handwriting is derived from grafo (writing in Greek) and logos (science in Greek). It was founded by Jean-Hyppolyte Michon, a French priest and archaeologist, who was first introduced to the idea that a person’s character could be ascertained via their handwriting in the 1830s in the philosophy classes taught by Abbé Flandrin.

The proof of his ultimate dedication was that he collected handwritten samples in French and other languages from people he knew in person as well as public and historical figures for 30 years. Based on his findings, he identified 360 personality traits and divided those into four main categories and eight classes.

In his old age, he wrote a number of books including The System of Graphology (1875), Practical Methods of Graphology (1878) and one year before his death, Forensic Graphology (1880) paving the way for the birth of a new “field of science”. Whether it is a real science will be discussed below.

What is graphology?

It is a branch of handwriting expertise that focuses on the unique characteristics of handwriting, instead of establishing the authenticity of handwriting or other related areas, in order to make conclusions about the writer’s personality and state. While it examines drawings and scribbling as well, its main point of interest is handwriting.

At first, you may not even realise how complex handwriting is. One of the reasons for its complexity may be that graphology equally examines handwriting as a whole and the direction, speed, pressure of the movement, the thickness, curves of the lines, the size, proportions and spacing of the elements of writing in order to make conclusions about the writer’s personality, mental state, energy level and many other attributes Maybe this list is a bit too long and this may partly explain why so many are sceptical about the findings of graphology.

But before we present our criticism of graphology, let us look at some of the conclusions drawn by graphologists based on various aspects of handwriting through a few examples. As this topic could fill a book, we will introduce some examples only instead of a comprehensive analysis.

Real self-image vs. desired self-image

As mentioned in our previous article, experts say that handwriting is like a snapshot of your current state of mind, and as such, allows to disclose things you do not say out loud or may even be unaware of.

For analysis, your handwriting is a better basis than your signature. The reason for this is very simple: your signature may be the reflection of a self-image you desire. It is easy to learn a set of movements because, for example, you like the signature of a person you hold in high regard but this does not necessarily make you like them.

Meanwhile, it is positive if your handwriting for texts is roughly identical with your signature formally. This indicates that you are ready to show your real personality and do not try to pretend to be someone else through a false signature.

However, the opposite may also happen and these two could be totally different. For example, if you use huge initials for your first and last name, it is likely that you wish to come through as an important, powerful person.  

If you use more angular letters, it means that you are not a very confident person in real life but this is what you would like the world to think about you. Others believe that angular letters written with strong strokes reflect an uncompromising and potentially overconfident character while the writers of softer and curvier letters are easier to agree with. 

Omnipotent science or something else? 

Many people agree that graphology is a science, this is what its name and its part, the Greek logos suggests. Others, however, warn that it should not be given too much importance and some even dismiss it as pseudoscience. 

The truth of the matter is that empirical studies or scientific experiments did not find any evidence at all whether graphology is able to accurately describe a personality. Handwriting offers relatively reliable clues to identify the writer’s age and sex but you do not have to be a graphologist to be able to do so. As the efficiency of the analysis in some cases is low, it cannot be used for therapy, consulting or recruitment of human resource.

Some researchers are of the opinion that the findings work as self-fulfilling prophecies and studies also frequently report the existence of the placebo effect. Many including this article published in the journal Language and Science remind of the key statements of graphology that personality traits may be precisely identified by analysing the person’s handwriting and that graphologists are better able to do so than people having no such training and skills. However, neither of these statements could be proven by studies.

Your handwriting may offer clues about your current mental state, some neurological disorders but these are not personality traits. This leads us to the conclusion that we should avoid overrating graphology: a single signature or a full handwritten page is just not enough to describe a personality in an accurate and comprehensive manner. However, one thing is certain: when you use Etelburg’s pens, your imagination can run free and your handwriting will be exactly what you wanted it to be. And what others will read out of it is entirely up to them...