Graphology (Handwriting Analysis)


Magnifying glass pointed at a signature on a page
"The attraction of graphology," says Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, "is similar to that of occult diagnosis. It is simple, cheap, and does not even require the physical presence of the subject under diagnosis" (Despair and Deliverance, 1992). (Epoxydude/Getty Images)


Graphology is the study of handwriting as a means of analyzing character. Also called handwriting analysis. Graphology in this sense is not a branch of linguistics

The term graphology is derived from the Greek words for "writing" and "study."

In linguistics, the term graphology is sometimes used as a synonym for graphemics, the scientific study of the customary ways in which spoken language is transcribed.



Examples and Observations

"In general, the scientific basis for graphological interpretations of personality is questionable."

("Graphology." Encyclopedia Britannica, 1973)

In Defense of Graphology

"Graphology is an old, well-studied, and well-applied projective psychological approach to the study of personality. . . . But somehow, in the United States, graphology is still often categorized as an occult or New Age subject. . . .

"The purpose of graphology is to examine and evaluate personality and character. Its use is comparable to assessment models such as the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (which is widely employed in business), or other psychological testing models. And while handwriting can provide insight into the writer's past and current state of mind, abilities, and compatibility with others, it cannot predict when he or she will meet a soul mate, accumulate wealth, or find peace and happiness.

. . . 

"Though graphology is sure to meet its share of skeptics, its use has been taken seriously [for] years by many scientists and psychologists, and, most important, by some of the largest and most renowned corporations and government agencies in the world . . ..  In 1980 the Library of Congress changed the classification for graphology books from the 'occult' section to the 'psychology' section, officially moving graphology out of the New Age."

(Arlyn Imberman and June Rifkin, Signature for Success: How to Analyze Handwriting and Improve Your Career, Your Relationships, and Your Life. Andrews McMeel, 2003)

An Opposing View: Graphology as an Assessment Tool

"A report published by the British Psychological Society, Graphology in Personnel Assessment (1993), concludes that graphology is not a viable means of assessing a person's character or abilities. There is no scientific evidence to support the claims of graphologists, and there is no relationship at all between what graphology predicts and subsequent performance in the workplace. This is a view endorsed by research evidence provided by Tapsell and Cox (1977). They maintain that there is no evidence to support the use of graphology in personal assessment."

(Eugene F. McKenna, Business Psychology and Organisational Behaviour, 3rd ed. Psychology Press, 2001)

The Origins of Graphology

"Although there are some mentions of graphology as early as 1622 (Camilo Baldi, Treatise on a Method to Recognize the Nature and Quality of a Writer From His Letters), the practical origins of graphology are in the mid-19th century, based upon the work and writings of Jacques-Hippolyte Michon (France) and Ludwig Klages (Germany).

It was, in fact, Michon who coined the term 'graphology' which he used in the title of his book, The Practical System of Graphology (1871 and reprints). The origin of the term 'graphoanalysis' is attributed to M.N. Bunker.

"Very simply, graphology [in law] is not Questioned Documents. The purpose of graphology is to determine the character of the writer; the purpose of a questioned document examination is to determine the identity of a writer. Thus, graphologists and document examiners cannot 'trade jobs,' since they are involved in very different skills."

(Jay Levinson, Questioned Documents: A Lawyer's Handbook. Academic Press, 2001)

The Promise of Graphology (1942)

"If taken away from fortune-tellers and given serious study, graphology may yet become a useful handmaiden of psychology, possibly revealing important traits, attitudes, values of the 'hidden' personality.

Research for medical graphology (which studies handwriting for symptoms of nervous diseases) already indicates that handwriting is more than muscular."

("Handwriting as Character." Time magazine, May 25,1942)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Graphology (Handwriting Analysis)." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, Nordquist, Richard. (2017, March 3). Graphology (Handwriting Analysis). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Graphology (Handwriting Analysis)." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 17, 2018).