At school, children are taught to write according to the same pattern, but, despite this, everyone succeeds in different ways. These features are so characteristic that people still sign agreements with their signatures, and bring the results of handwriting examinations to the courts in order to prove the authorship of the manuscripts. It is easy to conclude that since handwriting is individual, then it contains information about individuality: not only to whom it belongs, but also what kind of person it is.
This idea gained popularity in the era of romanticism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The writer Edgar Allan Poe, while he was editor of Graham's Magazine, analyzed the handwritings of famous writers and published notes with his conclusions in the magazine. The lines and curls of those he disliked received offensive epithets, for example, "written by the hands of the most ordinary clerk."
In the second half of the 19th century, the French priest Jean-Hippolyte Michonne tried to give a scientific basis for the interpretation of handwriting. In 1871 he began to publish the journal "Graphology", and later published several books describing his method. Later Michon's ideas were picked up in Germany. There they mixed with the theories of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung, and after World War II they returned to America and Great Britain, where they were further developed. Nowadays, graphology is widespread everywhere, including in Russia.
What's in my handwriting for you
In the philistine view, graphologists determine the character by handwriting, but this is not the end of it. Experts in this field are ready to judge temperament, type of thinking, level of intelligence and personality development, emotional maturity, characteristics of the nervous system, mental and physical health, strengths and weaknesses in work, spouse compatibility and much more. Such diagnostics are often carried out by psychologists with clients, during employment, for career guidance.
“Through handwriting, one can analyze how a person lives, perceives, reacts and adapts to the world around him,” says Larisa Drygval, a graphologist, Ph. D. According to her, fine motor skills depend on the activity of the psyche - because of this, a kind of writing of symbols arises. "It's ridiculous to deny the connection between the brain and fine motor skills when writing. Handwriting is an expression of micro-gestures characteristic of a particular person with specific behavioral patterns," says another graphologist Irina Bukhareva.
Graphologists are convinced that handwriting is self-sufficient, and additional observations and tests are not required for examination. Nevertheless, Larisa Drygval also takes into account biological age and gender in her analysis in order to determine psychological maturity and a way of responding to the world: "male" or "female". Irina Bukhareva also asks gender and age, and also - what hand the person writes with, what kind of vision he has, whether there are injuries or illnesses that can affect the letter, whether he is taking potent medications. All this is taken into account in the analysis.
A small experiment in the editorial office of TASS
According to adherents of graphology, it turns out that handwriting checking is an invaluable tool for understanding a person in capable hands. It is not surprising that they were interested in the CIA: the security of people and the state sometimes depends on the conclusions of agents and analysts. True, in the declassified report, which is titled "The Assessment of Graphology", its effectiveness is questioned. Arguing in general about any methods of assessing personality, the author of the report, Rundqvist, speaks of the so-called Barnum effect, "the best friend of charlatans."
The essence of the Barnum effect is as follows: if you give a person a vague description of a person, but say that it was prepared specifically for him, then such a description seems very accurate. Rundqvist once demonstrated this effect to a dozen European intelligence agents. He asked them to write something on paper, waited and then gave them personal characteristics. Ten out of 12 people agreed with them, and then learned that the conclusion was the same for all - Rundqvist took it from a German newspaper.
I conducted a similar experiment at the TASS editorial office. Ten colleagues provided handwriting samples. The next day I sent them the results of two "examinations" and asked them to rate how accurate they were. Each contained 12 statements. I took one on the graphologist's website from a report for some confused man, the other from a horoscope for Aquarius from an astrological website. Colleagues did not know about my trick - they thought that their handwriting would be analyzed by specialists.
In the first conclusion, all ten people fully or partially agreed with two statements: they consider themselves meticulous performers, think they are serious about life, are responsible and organized, but not without weaknesses. You can probably say the same about yourself. Of the remaining ten statements, most did not agree with only one of the dozen. With the horoscope, the same picture turned out, only all colleagues fully or partially agreed not with two, but with four statements about themselves.
Of course, my trick does not meet strict scientific standards, and the results must be interpreted with care. Maybe colleagues just do not know themselves well and humbly accepted the opinions of the authorities. Or maybe they really look alike, and it's just a coincidence. Or someone saw me squinting conspiratorially and rubbing my hands, suspected something and persuaded the others to deliberately give such answers.
The reliability of graphological methods is also checked from time to time by scientists. Graphologists are fond of repeating that a lot of research has had to clear up skeptics' doubts about the accuracy of handwriting analysis. This is an exaggeration. Psychologists Carla Dazzi and Luigi Pedrabissi from the University of Padua write that there is no consensus in the scientific community about graphology. Most of the academic articles supporting handwriting analysis came out in the 1970s and 1990s or even earlier. They were mainly about research that tested the ability of graphologists to predict the success of people at work and in school.
However, even in the recruitment business, the results are mixed. Psychologists Efrat Noether and Gershon Ben-Shahar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem processed the results of 17 studies. In total, 63 graphologists and 51 people without special training took part in them, who were also given the opportunity to check handwritten texts. It turned out that laymen predict the future success of job seekers even better than graphologists, especially when the text contains biographical information.
Handwriting analysis is even less useful for determining personality traits and level of intelligence. Scientists at University College London conducted two experiments in which students performed psychological tests to assess their personality and intelligence. The results were compared with the conclusions of the graphologists who checked only the manuscripts. The handwriting specialists failed: their conclusions turned out to be correct no more often than by chance. The aforementioned Dazzi and Pedrabissi conducted similar experiments and also found no evidence that graphological analysis can tell anything about a person. It is not surprising that the British Psychological Society, in terms of the reliability of the results, puts graphology on the same level with astrology (this is consistent with the results of the experiment in the editorial office of TASS).
Maybe some information about the person is really hidden in the handwriting. This hypothesis has not been disproved, and when writing does involve areas of the brain, which, among other things, affect personality and intelligence. But, apparently, if something important is hidden in the curls on paper, then graphologists are not able to recognize it. They simply creatively explain what they see with metaphors, analogies and symbols.
Simplicity can be deceiving
When I asked Larisa Drygval and Irina Bukhareva about the advantages of handwriting analysis, both first mentioned simplicity: to conduct a graphological examination, a person only needs to sit comfortably, relax and write half a page of text - you don't even need to go anywhere, and a specialist does not need expensive equipment - except perhaps the microscope that graphologists use to peer at lines on paper. But simplicity can be deceiving.
To assess a person, CIA analyst Rundqvist advised looking at his biography, education, place of work, social status, income, and the like. Psychologists use questionnaires with hundreds of questions to determine personality traits, problems and inclinations and conduct long interviews, sometimes several times, and special tests have been developed to measure intelligence.
These methods take a lot of effort, time and allow only approximate conclusions to be drawn, only nothing better has been invented yet. We generally have few accurate answers about ourselves and about each other, but because of this, we don't need to look for simple ones.