There are quite a few ways to determine someone’s personality. There’s the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that evaluates a person’s personality based on 16 character traits (Ash, 2012). And then there are other personality tests that are considered pseudosciences, or a collection of beliefs mistakenly thought to be supported by science, such as astrology. Another example of a pseudoscience would be graphology. Graphology is the study of handwriting analysis. Dating back to the 17th century, graphology is so popular that the International Graphoanalysis Society has reported a total of 10,000 members (Lilienfeld et al., 2010).
Graphology focuses on the shape of letters that form words, the general appearance of the written sentences, and the words that make up these sentences (Lilienfeld et al., 2010). But why would handwriting analysis be considered a personality test? Handwriting is thought of as being physical representations of the unconscious mind (Carroll, 2015). With this in mind, graphologists believe that they can tell if a person is outgoing from using large letters, childlike by putting a small circle instead of a dot over the i, or sensitive based on the pressure of the pen or pencil (Psychologia, 2015).
There have been quite a few studies performed to test the accuracy of graphology. Some studies focused on whether or not someone’s writing could provide information about personality traits or age, sex, or intelligence (Fluckiger, Tripp, & Weinberg, 1961). There were also studies done to see if the pressure someone applies while writing is connected to some other personality trait (Fluckiger et al., 1961).
Even with all of these ideas, graphology will always be considered a pseudoscience because of the evidence that disproves its ideas. In one experiment, Richard Klimoski was able to test graphologists by having them determine a person’s work performance based on their handwriting. All participants in this study were told to write the same sentences to ensure that there would be no “indirect cues” pertaining to personality (Lilienfeld et al., 2010). Klimoski found that graphologists were a poor predictors of a person’s job performance. Another test done by Geoffrey Dean in 1992 showed that graphologists completely failed at determining both job performance and personality characteristics (Lilienfeld et. al, 2010).
Analyzing writing may not have a scientific application, but it could be one heck of a party trick.
Ash, L. (2012). Personality tests: Can they identify the real you? Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-18723950
Fluckiger, F., Tripp, C. & Weinberg, G. H. (1961). A review of experimental research in graphology, 1933-1960. Southern University Press.
Graphology (graphoanalysis). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://skepdic.com/graphol.html
Lilienfeld, S. O., Lynn, S. J., Ruscio, J., & Beyerstein, B. L. (2010). 50 great myths of popular
psychology: Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behavior. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.