by Kathleen Warren
Graphology, also known as graphoanalysis, is a process that is used by some to attempt to determine personality traits and details about a person based off of their handwriting. It began in 1871 by Jean-Hippolyte MIchon, and it is still popular in Europe, especially France. It has been used to assess child development, give career advice, and even to provide psychological analysis (Schofield).Today a major and problematic use of graphology is to determine which job applicant corporation managers should hire. This is problematic because proof of the validity of graphology hasn’t been found, and it is still being used to make important decisions that can have a large effect on individuals’ lives. Graphology can be considered an extraordinary belief because it is a form of pseudoscience, and it would require the belief that personality traits can be communicated, via unconscious mental functions, through handwriting (Carroll).
The evidence often used to prove the validity of graphology include its similarity to forensic handwriting analysis. Graphologist examine many of the same features as forensic document examiners when analyzing handwriting. However, they try and use it to analyze personality rather than to detect authenticity or forgery. Another element often used to argue the validity of graphology is the satisfaction rate of clients who have paid for handwriting analysis. Since it is estimated that in France 50-70% of businesses use it (Schofield), many believe it, and defend it by must be accurate because that many people couldn’t all be incorrect about it (Novella).
Graphology is not accepted as a real science because of the evidence against it. One way it has been tested is by having multiple graphologist analyze the same handwriting sample. When this was done, the graphologists all provided different personality traits (Schofield), proving there wasn’t a universal accurate way to analyze handwriting. Another reason it cannot be proven to be true is the content of the sample being analyzed often influences the reading more than the handwriting traits. This was seen when the graphologists were asked to describe the personality of subjects when the handwriting sample contained a passage that had been copied from a magazine (Carroll). If handwriting was truly how the unconscious personality details were being read by the graphologists, then they would not have still been able to describe the personality of the writers. However, they were not able to accurately describe the personalities when the writings were not autobiographical.
Many of the people who believe in graphology live in France. This is likely because it is accepted in France, and it began there (Schofield). This could also be partially due to graphology training courses in France that are popularly attended. Because there are approximately 1,000 handwriting analysis practitioners in France (Schofield), it is probably easier for them to sustain their beliefs. It could also be popular in France because of a “national proclivity for the abstract; or an instinctive rejection of US-origin “personality” tests” (Schofield).
There are psychological explanations that account for the belief in graphology. One reason it is believed is because it has the appearance of science (Novella), even though there is no scientific proof. Another reason people believe it is it make appeals to authority, by stating it is based on theories by psychologist Carl Jung. It also relies on confirmation bias, as people will pay more attention to the details the graphologists lists that align with their opinions of the subject, than to the mistakes made. It also makes an appeal to a conspiracy, by claiming that the opposition is part of a “big psychology lobby” (Novella) and, therefore, cannot be trusted.