Graphology, Science or Pseudoscience?

The Victorians loved to enumerate and list everything and one of those ideas was graphology, the belief that a person’s personality could be inferred from their measured and assessed handwriting. It received a big boost when Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was able to describe a writer’s character from a note or letter. The fact that Holmes was a fictitious character is neither here nor there… In more recent times companies have used graphology to decide whether or not to employ someone, using the services of graphology experts. Were they experts or “experts”?

Such things as the forming of letters, slope of writing and the size of writing form part of their discipline. I don’t know enough about graphology to to decide whether it is a reliable skill which amounts to a science or spurious nonsense like such other useless measurements as phrenology. My own writing varies enormously depending on the writing instrument, the ink and the paper. I have to find my best writing angle with each fountain pen and that influences how my writing appears. With some dip nibs my writing slopes but with fountain pens it’s usually vertical. The size varies a lot too and these are things a graphologist would use to deduce personality. Probably the form of my letters remains the same though this draft is done in a hasty scrawl, quite different from my written fine copy.

I don’t suppose that companies use graphologists nowadays as most young people are incapable of writing without keyboard, or so I am told. I have my opinion about graphology but what do you think? Is it science or bunkum?


13 thoughts on “Graphology, Science or Pseudoscience?

  1. I think it may be possible to deduce something from a person’s ‘natural’ writing, if only that it may, or not be the result of practice which may infer something about character.
    Practically though it’s probably ‘bunkum’, when using a ballpoint my writing is truly horrible, when using a fountain pen it is still bad but totally different.

  2. Deb…this does um smack of the esoteric, but all my life I have ‘noticed’ other’s handwriting and after sort of correlating writing style with feelings and observations about those people, there really does seem to be more than what can be attributed to coincidence about a lot of the things that ‘graphologists’ say.
    I’m pretty sure that folks that are into astrology say much the same, so I may be open to the same criticisms levelled at them.
    But tiny little scrawl writing often equates to a personality that feels tiny and maybe disorganised, and free flowing and expressive writing often equates to a more artistic and open type of personality.
    I could bang on and on, but won’t……..but I do think there’s something to it.

  3. I agree with all comments regarding variations in writing according to the pen being used. I always do a minimum of an A5 sheet of write test with a pen I service. If I am enjoying the pen and my scrawl (as it is a lot of the time) is acceptable. The write test will double to the other side of the paper, Rhodia, 5mm squared 80GSM. The pattern for younger peoples writing nowadays is printing, I don’t know when they stopped teaching cursive writing in schools ? Some people see calligraphy as cursive, but it is done in print form, so not true cursive “joined up” hand writing. Eric

  4. Edit. Or ‘to add’ …..there is however pretty much conclusive and comprehensive evidence that whilst there may be the odd coincidence , graphology can be roundly dismissed as having any kind of scientific basis…..

  5. A most interesting article. Like you, my writing changes with pen, paper, ink, and purpose.
    While I am always interested to examine another’s writing in the hope that it might illuminate the other’s character, somewhat like a painted portrait, I do not think that graphology stands up to scientific examination. Anyway, as the others have already noted, it has been overtaken by the keyboard.

  6. I believe graphology was main stream in France, especially for job applications. Not sure how it stands now in the age of printed text!

    1. When sending my CV for jobs, I used to always include a fountain pen hand written letter. It has got me interviews that may not have happened on CV alone.

  7. I spoke to a relative who has practiced graphology for many years – and of course is a believer. He told me that graphology looks at the personal style that someone (from the age of 12 and upwards) develops after having been taught to writers grade school. In other words the focus is on the deviations from/ interpretation of the “normal” style. Those deviations are believed to convey (or to coincide with) personality traits.

    That is why graphology does not work on the handwriting of someone who practices a specific script (such as Palmer, Spencerian, Cancellaresca etc) because such a person will (or is deemed to) strive at fully implementing the (uses of the) script rather than developing a personal writing style.

    Hans Gilliams


    1. That’s very informative, Hans. There has to be something in it; it’s just the quality of the interpretation that is difficult to assess. They could find plenty of deviations in my writing. Some I did intentionally when I was a teenager trying to assert my individuality. Some have developed over the years in speed writing.

  8. Really it is very informative blog on Graphology, Science or Pseudoscience. With the help of this I earn more knowledge about Graphology.
    Thank you for sharing this informative article.

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