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Addressing Handwriting Analysis Skepticism

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One of the first entries you’ll find in an Internet search for “handwriting analysis” is by Wikipedia.

Reading the entry, you’ll notice Wikipedia classifies it as “pseudo science.”

However, are Wikipedia entries always objective?

English professor Alan Liu, UC Santa Barbara, states, “(Wikipedia) is not appropriate as the primary or sole reference for anything that is central to an argument, complex, or controversial.”

Amazingly, a spokeswoman for Wikipedia, Sandra Ordonez, stated in an e-mail interview, “(Wikipedia) is not an authoritative source…(and) there is no guarantee an article is 100 percent correct.”

Although much of the historical information on Wikipedia can be useful, Wikipedia has proven to be an exercise in radical partiality and underhanded misinformation. It’s compiled by a network of anonymous volunteers and has frequently been criticized by scholars and other individuals as being full of inaccuracies. Follow the money (start with the key sources quoted in the entries) and you’ll get a sense of how astonishingly erroneous data finds its way onto the pages of Wikipedia.

It goes without saying that the Internet is full of misinformation, so make sure to do thorough research on any given topic before solidifying your opinion.

Common concerns about handwriting analysis are addressed below:

Is handwriting analysis (graphology) a pseudoscience?

No, it isn’t. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pseudoscience as “A system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific.” It defines scientific as “Of, relating to, or exhibiting the methods or principles of science.” It defines science as “A knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.” Finally, it defines scientific method as “Principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.”

Handwriting analysis is empirically based—“…objective collection of data through observation and experiment and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.” Therefore, graphology is an authentic science.

Have most empirical studies failed to show the validity of handwriting analysis?

No. More than 200 scientific papers have been published in non-graphological peer-reviewed publications in the last 50+ years. These scientific papers showcase the validity of handwriting analysis; there exists a distinct correlation between handwriting and personality.

If behavioral scientists had found it to be a valid tool, then wouldn’t they have done so by now and wouldn’t it be commonly used?

Human behavioral studies involving handwriting analysis exist (see above) and it has been found to be a valid tool. Handwriting analysis is commonly used in the workplace (and elsewhere) at this time.

It’s not likely employers would continue to utilize handwriting analysis if it weren’t valuable.

Employers find handwriting analysis invaluable, particularly in Europe, although it’s commonly used in America as well (despite many businesses refusing to disclose that they use it). The London Times (9-17-1995) quoted a French official as stating, “About 80% of large companies in France use graphology as part of the recruitment process, generally for their executives…” Also, Dun’s Review reports that handwriting analysis is regularly used for hiring employees in 85% of European firms.

Furthermore, in addition to using forensic analysis, local, state, and federal (FBI, CIA, and other 3-letter agencies) U.S. law enforcement have and do utilize handwriting analysis, despite claims to the contrary.

Have studies related to predicting personality and job performance shown handwriting analysis to be inaccurate?

Handwriting analysis has proven very valuable in assessing personality to match specific job demands. However, it does not “predict” job performance and any study involving this should be questioned.

If handwriting analysts (graphologists) can’t predict the scores on the Myers-Briggs test using samples from the test-takers, why should I trust handwriting analysis?

Such a study is unfair and frankly, ridiculous. Handwriting analysis does not “predict” anything. It does, however, help save you the hassle and expense of hiring the wrong employees, and it’s an effective tool to help improve workplace morale and productivity by identifying true strengths, challenges, and compatibility.

My advice is to avoid giving the Myers-Briggs test any more than moderate emphasis in determining personality strengths and challenges.

The problem with fill-in-the-blanks and multiple choice question personality tests, the self-report kind, is that the person who is taking the test inevitably figures out the intent of the questions and answers how he or she thinks they should answer to score appropriately.

Whether is it to obtain a job, advance within a company, or for some other reason, the questions aren’t always answered honestly.

Everyone wants to present themselves in the best light possible and since self-report tests can be manipulated, a more objective alternative is necessary.

Besides, the Myers Briggs assessment notoriously, inaccurately outlines supposed dichotomies such as sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, and judgment-perception. This approach showcases vague generalities and other than having a meeting to have a meeting to share the results with your co-workers, I see the test as inadequate.

Self-report personality tests are best used as supplements to other, more reliable forms of assessment, such as handwriting analysis.

Handwriting analysis is so useful because the results can’t be manipulated.

Why do many human resource professionals refuse to acknowledge handwriting analysis as an effective way to assess personality?

The corporate rules, regulations, and human resource management guidelines they must adhere to leave zero room for thinking outside of the box. It’s unfortunate that many of these professionals are so bound by excessive corporate constraints. Commonly, they are guided by biased psychologists who advocate fill-in-the-blanks and multiple choice question personality tests, rather than handwriting analysis.

Do studies such as the King & Koehler study show graphology to be a “worthless predictor of job performance”?

Again, handwriting analysis does not “predict” anything. In that particular study, the psychologists selected “Participants unfamiliar with graphology…” and those participants “…inspected handwriting samples paired with fabricated personality profiles…” They claimed to have used “handwriting-feature-personality-trait pairs,” but “Trait-pairs” suggests very basic, even trivial handwriting analysis; it’s no wonder the study turned out as it did.

The “semantic association between words used to describe handwriting features and personality traits was the source of biases in perceived correlation” is just another way to say “we didn’t employ well-trained handwriting analysts in our experiment because they would have demanded we take a more honest approach in defining character, in associating multiples/groups of handwriting analysis factors to personality; we thought it would serve our prejudice well to employ dumbed-down handwriting analysis methodologies…”

The lesson here is that you must consider the possible partiality behind any given study.

An aside, there do exist many psychologists who accept the science of handwriting analysis as an authentic means to assess personality, but like any provocative topic, there are groups on both sides of the debate.

Is handwriting analysis discriminatory? According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, handwriting analysis might appear to be discriminatory; if anyone who has a disability cannot take a test, then nobody can: evaluations that can’t be adapted for use by those who are disabled, such as a blind person, can’t be used by a potential employer.

Handwriting analysis isn’t discriminatory.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated, “We are not aware of any evidence or cases which suggest that graphology has an adverse impact on a protected class.”

Anyone who can write a few paragraphs of spontaneous writing, even if it is with their foot or mouth holding the pen, can have their handwriting analyzed.

Despite claims (i.e., fabricated studies), a handwriting analyst can’t distinguish sex, sexual orientation, race, age, weight, height, religion, or marital status from a handwriting sample. All qualified, honest graphologists will tell you the truth: sex, sexual orientation, race, age, weight, height, religion, or marital status can’t be reliably discerned through graphology. Handwriting analysis might just be the most non-discriminatory personality profiling method in existence. Firm correlations between specific protected classes and handwriting analysis indicators have not been identified in any credible study.

A well-trained professional graphologist objectively measures personality in relation to the demands of the job (e.g. diplomacy, organizational skills, assertiveness, attention to detail, et al). A graphologist does not predict success, and it’s not the graphologist’s job to make the decision if the person should be hired or not.

An employer should make sure that every job applicant submits a handwriting sample, whether or not that applicant’s handwriting sample is to be analyzed, if the employer plans to analyze handwriting as a form of evaluation for the job. I advise the utilization of graphology as one of the most valuable forms of character analysis available.

Is handwriting analysis an invasion of my privacy?

No. Established legal precedents exist in relation to handwriting analysis. One U.S. court ruled that your script is “behavior in public” and that using it as the foundation of personality evaluation can’t be viewed as an invasion of privacy. U.S. vs. Hazelwood School District 534 F 2nd 805 states that graphology is “not precluded in hiring if it is related to the job.”

Invasion of privacy hinges on the expectation of privacy, which disappears when you fill out a job application in your handwriting and acknowledge that the employer will read it. Also, employers understand (through performance agreements, such as the one I use) that only the employer’s decision-makers (i.e., your interviewer, etc.), those supervisory personnel who have a “need to know,” are entitled to see the results of the analysis. The contents of each profile are kept confidential, as per the client-analyst agreement.

Besides, no ethical handwriting analyst would tell your prospective employer about your possible early-life trauma, for example, because it’s not directly related to the job. It’s the responsibility of the graphologist to focus exclusively on personality traits required for optimum job performance.

Since artists can alter their handwriting when they want, doesn’t this mean it’s not a useful form of personality analysis?

A person applies for a job and they are told that as part of the hiring process they will be asked to submit a handwriting sample, and the sample directions include the following: “The writing sample should be done in your normal writing style while you are comfortably seated at a table or desk. If you habitually print, then please also include a paragraph of cursive writing. If you normally have several styles of writing, you may also include samples of each.”

Chances are they will not attempt to alter their usual script. Even if they do, a good analyst can spot affectation. By attempting to considerably alter his script, the writer would risk misrepresenting himself to the detriment of appearing to not be a match for the job.

Should employers rely exclusively on handwriting analysis for hiring decisions?

No. I recommend the use of a range of evaluations (e.g., handwriting analysis, in conjunction with other psychological testing methods), in addition to the interview, background check, security investigation, etc. to determine a person’s fit for the demands of any job.

As I state on my handwriting sample forms, “Decisions will not be made based only on the results of the graphological analysis, but in conjunction with the interview process, decision-maker observations, and other information.”

Do individual handwriting analysis indicators, such as slant conclusively symbolize distinct personality traits?

No, they don’t. There is no “this (a single indicator) means that (a specific personality trait)” in authentic handwriting analysis. Any single personality trait is effectively represented by multiple handwriting factors and any single factor’s energy is supported or mitigated by the other 300+ factors.

Unfortunately, the skeptics’ studies frequently employ single handwriting factors, negatively misrepresenting the science. An overly simplistic approach yields inaccuracies, which supports the skeptics’ agenda.

To those who still doubt the validity of graphology, recall that many respected scientists in the earlier part of the twentieth century asserted that psychology could not be a science. It took decades for psychology to be accepted as the valid science it is today.

It’s recommended to objectively investigate all viewpoints and to make your own conclusions. In doing so, you’ll likely find handwriting analysis to be a fantastic way to effectively assess personality and to reduce your risk.

Copyright © 2011 Scott Petullo

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2 Responses to “Addressing Handwriting Analysis Skepticism”

  1. Theresa Ortega Says:

    I was very happy to find this article, addressing inaccuracies in the Wikipedia entry. I have had an issue with it for quite some time, but hadn’t had the time to address it.
    Working in an academic environment, I’m tarred with the brush that regards Wikipedia as a very inaccurate source and tags it as not allowable for reference.
    Thank you for pointing all of this out.

  2. Scott Petullo Says:

    Thanks for your comment, Theresa.

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