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Graphology

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80. What Is Graphology All About?


Graphology is an endeavour to correlate handwriting features with personality traits. It is not handwriting identication per se. For different reasons, interest in handwriting as a purveyor of information respecting the writer has probably existed as long as writing has been common to society. Camilo Baldi, an Italian scholar and physician, in 1622, published Treatise on a Method to Recognize the Nature and Quality of a Writer from his Letters, a book that is credited with being one of the rst to make public an intellectual interest in the subject. Johann Kasper Lavater at the University of Zurich is reported to have written and published on similar subjects in the late years of the eighteenth century, but not until the publication of the works of Abbe Jean Hippolyte Michon of France, in 1871, on The Practical System of Graphology was the generic term coined for handwriting analysis. Around 1900, a disciple of Michon, Crepieux-Jamin, because of his interest in the French psychologist Alfred Binet, originator of the rst intelligence tests, pursued Michons studies in handwriting analysis as a technique for testing personality. Since then, interest has been expressed by many writers in many countries, to the point where libraries now offer a wide selection of books on graphology, of an equally wide range of quality. Notwithstanding their range, these books generally represent variants of three major schools of graphology the trait school, the Gestalt school, and the graphoanalysis system. The trait school, of which Michon was an early proponent, claims graphic signs (e.g., length, width, or slant of a certain stroke) reect specic personal traits. The Gestalt school, that evolved later and largely in Germany under the inuence of Ludwig Klages, advocated (1910) that graphological interpretations must be based on the examination of writing as a whole entity, and not from individual congurations. Klages dealt with expressive movements rather than particular graphological elements. The Gestalt approach deviates signicantly from the trait school in relying on judgment and intuition of the graphologist. Following Klages, other authors, e.g., Dr. Bernard Wittlich and Dr. Klara Roman, attempted to integrate individual graphological traits into the Gestalt picture of the writer.

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In 1929, M. N. Bunker founded graphoanalysis as a middle-of-the-road compromise between the one-to-one sign graphology that typied the French trait school and the broad intuitive Gestalt graphology of the German school. Bunkers contention that related traits produce an overall effect different from that of any single trait is referred to as the holistic or global personality pattern, whereas the approach of the trait school of France is labelled atomistic. So, contrary to the manner in which many have used the term as synonymous with graphology, graphoanalysis is, in fact, merely one of three principle approaches to handwriting analysis, that fall under the umbrella of graphology. Graphology is presently proffered in a variety of applications: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. In personnel selection In aptitude determinations In studies of the effects of certain mental health conditions In forensic identications As a psycho diagnostic tool

Many persons have been critical of the research performed in this area and have publicly condemned graphology as a fraudulent pursuit. Many document examiners on this continent share these sentiments. Unfortunately, the arguments proffered against graphology have been, too often, as awed as the research in support of it. Writing is a self-recorded behaviour and any specic domain of behaviour can be considered a legitimate object of research in differential psychology: 1. If people differ from one another in respect of this behaviour (heterogeneity) 2. If the behaviour is reasonably stable and can be recorded and measured reliably (reliability) 3. If the behaviour is signicant on its own merits or is related to some other interesting psychological trait or behaviour (validity)1 While prominent psychologists expressed an interest in the behavioral domain of handwriting 75 years ago, scientic handwriting psychology today is a more neglected area. Undoubtedly, the negative ndings regarding the validity of handwriting interpretations, the lack of ethics, the low professional standards, and the pretensions of hundreds of graphologists who lacked formal education in psychology have contributed to the suspicious attitude of professional people towards graphology. Solicitations for the empirical data on which graphology is presumed to be based, made through the ofcers or ofces of eight organizations of persons engaged in graphology that were listed in the Yearbook of International Organizations (1983), met with completely negative results. 2 However, as Nevo3 has stated:
There is no sense in ghting phoney graphologists by ignoring the whole domain of handwriting behaviour. Relinquishing graphology into the hands of nonprofessionals has already caused great damage.

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Notwithstanding Nevos appeal, the literature is still populated with controversial dissertations4-7 by persons employed under the authorities of reputable institutions endeavouring to establish the validity of graphology as a predictor of academic achievement, 8 as a predictor of occupational success,9-10 as a personnel selector,11 as a predictor of success in women,12 or as a reliable instrument for other purposes. Even the training, certication, and experience of graphologists13 has been the subject of scrutiny. Despite the copious quantities of studies conducted on the discipline, its usefulness is still in serious doubt. Even if one was to accept the idea that some personal information is sometimes conveyed through a persons handwriting, the question remains, How strong is the phenomenon? In a recent statement, Nevo14 has conceded that, On the basis of these (current) ndings, the practical application of graphology as a single psychodiagnostic tool cannot, in fact, be recommended. Few persons have been as comprehensive in their review of graphological research as Klimoski and Rafaeli.15 These authors methodically set out the ground rules for acceptable scientic research in handwriting. They critically and objectively review the important writings on the subject of recent years, and then cautiously and conservatively conclude that:
graphology should not be ruled out as a possible additional source of information in a diagnostic or selection context. But script (handwriting) analysis used in this manner has yet to be (properly) evaluated. Thus, given the evidence we do have, great reliance on inferences based on script must be considered unwarranted.

For anyone uncertain as to its usefulness, Klimoski and Rafaeli have provided a criteria for examination in evaluating graphological studies as follows: 1. Reliability of the behaviour tested (handwriting) 2. Reliability of handwriting interpretation: a. conspect reliability (agreement between analysts on inferences from the same writing sample) b. reliability of inferences (consistency of judgments across different samples) 3. Representativeness of the writing samples 4. Validity (correctness of a graphological assessment) 5. Professional skill in analysis (knowledge and training vs. intuition) It is in one or more of these respects that graphology has failed, to date, to render itself acceptable to the scientic community. Indeed, it constitutes a large part of the criteria that we have suggested (see Section 77: What Must Be Done to Make Handwriting Identication A Science?) that handwriting identication itself must meet to be included under the umbrella of science. However, Klimoski and Rafaeli, Nevo, and other authors of the last two decades have offered more than a critical review of graphological research and an evaluation of graphological principles in which much has been found wanting. They have recommended specic objectives for proper research into handwriting and presented a challenge to those who will pursue new studies in handwriting behaviour according to new standards.

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References
1. Nevo, Baruch, ed. Scientic Aspects of Graphology (Springeld Ill: Charles C Thomas, 1986), p vii. 2. Moore, Michael, About the Sad State of Scientic Graphology. Psychological Documents, 1985; 15: 1. 3. Nevo, Baruch, Op. cit., p viii. 4. Vestewig, R. E., Santee, A. H., and Moss, M. K., Validity and Student Acceptance of a Graphoanalytic Approach to Personality. Journal of Personality Assessment, 1976; 40: pp 592-598. 5. Crumbaugh, J. C., A Reply to Validity and Student Acceptance of a Graphoanalytic Approach to Personality by Vestewig, Santee, and Moss. Journal of Personality Assessment, 1977; 41: pp 351-352. 6. Vestewig, R. E. and Moss, M. K., On the Validity of Graphoanalysis: A Rejoinder to Crumbaughs Reply. Journal of Personality Assessment, 1977; 41: pp 589-590. 7. Crumbaugh, James C., On the Validity of Graphoanalysis: A Rebuttal of Vestewig and Moss Rejoinder to Crumbaughs Reply to Validity and Student Acceptance of a Graphoanalytic Approach to Personality Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1988; 67: pp 461-462. 8. Oosthuizen, Stanley, Graphology as a Predictor of Academic Achievement. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1990; 71: pp 715-721. 9. Nevo, Baruch, Yes. Graphology can Predict Occupational Success: Rejoinder to Ben Shakhar et al. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1988; 66: pp 92-94. 10. Ben-Shakhar, Gershon, Bar-Hillel, Maya, Bilu, Yoram, Ben-Abba, Edor, and Flug Anat, Can Graphology Predict Occupational Success? Two Empirical Studies and Some Methodological Ruminations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1986; 71: 4: pp 645-653. 11. Rafaeli, Anat and Drory, Amos, Graphological Assessments for Personnel Selection: Concerns and Suggestions for Research. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1988; 66: pp 743-759. 12. Wellingham-Jones, Patricia, Evaluation of the Handwriting of Successful Women through the Roman-Staempi Psychogram. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1989; 69: pp 999-1010. 13. Peeples, E. Edward, Training, Certication, and Experience of Handwriting Analysts. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1990; 70: pp 1219-1226. 14. Nevo, Baruch, Validation of Graphology Through Use of a Matching Method Based on Ranking. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1989; 69: pp 1331-1336. 15. Klimoski, Richard J. and Rafaeli, Anat, Inferring Personal Qualities Through Handwriting Analysis. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 1983; 56: pp 191-202.

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