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.


26 thoughts on “Graphology

  1. I think the most interesting part about this is that it is considered a real science in France, and that graphology only has an appearance of science is enough for a majority of the French population to believe in it enough to open up schools about it. I think that maybe your handwriting might be able to say something about your personality but do not agree with the fact that your handwriting can dictate your character and certain aspects of your life.

    • i agree 100% lauren! I think your handwriting can tell some things about your personality, for example if someone takes their time and has neat handwriting perhaps it says that they are patient or a perfectionist or calm etc. if someone has messy handwriting it could mean they are busy or constantly stressed either way it cant determine EVERYTHING about someone and that is where the trouble lies.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post because graphology is something I do not know much about, but it interests me a lot. I think it’s absolutely crazy that people believe in something like this. It seems silly to think our handwriting can predict our personality, and it has even been proven wrong. I enjoyed reading that there had been studies done on analyzing handwriting. This is something I did not know. It also interested me that it began in France and is still popular there.

  3. Graphology is something that I’ve seen in articles before but it was interesting to learn more about it. I was surprised to see that this is an accepted form of study in France. I also found it interesting that the type of passage affected the assessment of the personality. I feel like it would be assumed that if the writing was about the participant then the personality would be assessed from the content of the writing, not the handwriting itself.

  4. Graphology is something I was generally unfamiliar with. To me, it is all correlation methodology. If this is the case, why are so many people bought into the idea of graphology? It doesn’t seem to make that much sense to me. I completely understand analyzing handwriting and having professionals that work in law to help identify subjects, but I do not see how we can legitimize a personality based off of the way your hand writing looks. I am surprised at how well received it is in France, do you think it will continue to be this way in the future?

  5. Kathleen, I have never heard of graphology before and found your post to be very intriguing! You talked about how graphology is still popular in Europe, especially in France. Did you find anything that suggest that people use this today in America, or even ever in America? I liked your point about how people will pay more attention to the details the graphologists lists that align with their opinions, I think that goes with a lot of these foretelling subjects.

  6. Before reading your post, I had no idea what graphology actually was! It’s shocking that some job recruiters use your handwriting as a way to determine if they want to hire you based on fictitious personality traits that are associated with styles of handwritings. It’s also alarming that this is a popular practice in France and they actually have handwriting analysis practitioners. Until this topic is studied and the results are reliable and valid, it seems that graphology is just another extraordinary belief.

  7. This is a great essay! I personally had no idea what graphology was before I read it. After reading it, the points you make about the validity of graphology are very clear and understandable. I agree that the reason graphology is probably the most popular in France is because it started there, and the study done where different graphologists performed an analysis on the same handwriting and all came up with different results is enough evidence for me that graphology is probably just a myth. Very interesting topic, though. It seems very far fetched that a person’s personality can be detected by their handwriting!

  8. I found this extremely interesting and one that I had not heard about before. I found it incredibly interesting that this is taken and used by 50%+ of businesses in France. I agree with you that it is probably so popular because it was indeed founded in France. Overall it was a fantastic Essay and I really enjoyed reading it. I wonder if France will eventually move on from Graphology or if it will get bigger.

  9. I have personally heard of graphology before because more and more articles are being written about it and buzzfeed even did a video where they brought in a graphologist to asses employees handwriting. The history behind it is very interesting.

  10. I love to think about how different countries can consider different disciplines “scientific” while others don’t, similar to different perspectives on homeopathy in different countries. While graphology seems kind of like astrology to me, in that it’s just too generalizable, I’m definitely interested in looking more into your sources and learning more about the topic!

    • i agree i think it is very generalizable! also, i think it can cause issues if people truly think that it is the end all be all. It also in away can cause stereotypes and does not allow for people to make sound opinions of people, all they would have to do is see their handwriting and make a decision from that point on and that is problematic

  11. Graphology is something I had not really known about before reading this post. It is very interesting to learn more about. I find it funny that they took something scientific like forensic handwriting analysis and took it a step further making it not scientific. I know there will always be people who believe various pseudosciences, but this one is especially hard for me to believe. Personally, my handwriting tends to vary a little bit. Does that mean my personality traits would vary too? This does not make sense to me because a person’s overall personality doesn’t change much, but the way this “science” is presented would make it seem that it could based on someone’s handwriting from day-to-day.

  12. Graphology, I learned a new word. I had heard of this before but I guess I never relieved it had its own “ology”. This is one of those things where it just seems so obvious that people should know isn’t real. To me it seems, replicability of the story is the best evidence for many of the extraordinary beliefs we have studied in class; graphology is truly unique because it is not replicable (different graphologists will say different things of the same writing) but people still believe it to be accurate.

  13. great post! I never really knew much about this but it is really interesting. I think it is so believable because its outward appearance of science. People who are not skeptical consumers of science will truly believe that this is real science. the problem with this is that it makes people believe that their fate is essentially determined by something so small and they essentially can loose control of their lives.

  14. This is so embarrassing, but I had no idea this was not true!! I have lived my whole life believing my handwriting told a story about me. I watch a lot of true crime and I feel like analyzing handwriting is always something that comes up. So, one thing I never understood is handwriting analysis because handwriting changes over time and even for me, my handwriting changes day to day, so how can someone argue that handwriting is telling when it changes?

  15. Kathleen,
    Graphology is such an interesting belief. I know you said it was developed in Europe in the late 1800s, but I was wondering if you knew anything more about how it was developed. Did MIchon notice that he could guess a person’s personality traits based on their handwriting before developing this belief? Do you know if he ever made an effort to test this belief? I would be really interested to know more about that.

  16. This topic was new to me! I have heard of it maybe once before but never looked into it. It is intriguing to me that people could see handwriting as an indicator for personality traits. When I read this, I thought of my own handwriting. It can change based off whether im tired, using a pen vs. a pencil, lighting. I just find it difficult a to how people could even get a correlation of personality traits to handwriting when it can change so often.

    • You make a great point in saying that handwriting can definitely change depending on a lot of factors. I know with my handwriting, it usually starts off neat when I first start taking notes and gets messy by the end, so I’m not sure the validity in judging a person’s personality based on their handwriting especially because handwriting style can fluctuate depending on numerous factors.

  17. I had an ex that was super into graphology. She used it all the time to try and determine different personality traits of people. It was during this time that I realized 1) How many graphology books exist and 2) How they all seem to contradict the other. I feel like a point that many graphologists miss is how handwriting changes over time, but I suppose one could loosely argue that it’s reflective of a changing personality as well. With such a weak correlation, I find it hard for people to claim that there is any true empirical backing to the legitimacy of graphology.

  18. I remember when I was younger around 11 or 12 I read these articles in a teen magazine that analyzed celebrity handwritings and said what things correlated to what personality traits the person had, but I wasn’t aware that this was something that is actually practiced. After reading those articles I purposely tried to changed my handwriting to fit with the personality traits that I wanted so that people would think that I had those traits. It doesn’t make sense to me that if you can purposely change your handwriting then how can graphology be valid? It seems that, as you mentioned, this belief can have a negative impact on those trying to find jobs if those that are hiring them are analyzing them depending on their handwriting instead of their actual personalities and qualifications.

  19. I’ve heard of this methodology. It comes around when I’m watching films or TV where “police scientists” analyze writing to do psychological profiles. I never thought of it in much credence. Now the methodology of using handwriting to test for counterfeiting or checking to see if a particular person wrote something, I do believe this is useful in those fields.

    • yes I have heard about this when it comes to criminal investigations! This was something HUGE with the Jeanbonet Ramsey case with her mom rewriting the ransom note. I think in the criminal scene this can be useful but for just every day general knowledge about someone’s personality and who they are and their qualifications, i do not agree with its use.

  20. I found your post on graphology to be especially interesting compared to other posts because I was actually unaware that graphology wasn’t a proven science. I’ve never looked much into graphology to see if it was valid or not but you see people talk about it a decent amount, especially on television, and I never thought to question it because it appeared to be a real science. Reading about other things people believe it that end up being pseudoscience I’m usually stuck wondering how people believe in things that have no evidence to back them up but here I am also believing in something that doesn’t have an evidence supporting it. From now on I’ll be making sure to do more fact checking on things like this.

  21. This post is very interesting, i have never heard of this belief and I am happy that you covered it in such detail, what surprised me the most is how this belief is so wide spread but it has no scientific evidence. I have seen in shows like criminal minds, episodes where the police analyze people’s handwriting but it is interesting to read about the origins of this.

  22. Nice article. I loved it because views on graphology are bang on. Graphologists use two techniques
    1. Gestalt Method
    2. Trait Method
    I do have doubts on Gestalt Method, but there are proven articles on trait method. So somehow I do believe on trait methods, although they are not 100% proven

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