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Handwriting Analysis or Graphology as it has been known since the 19th Century, has been around for centuries.  Theologians, philosophers, writers have long since discussed the merits of writing and the authors’ personality but it was with the onset of psychology in the early 20th Century that graphology finally came into its own.

  • In France  La Societe Francaise de Graphologie (SFDG) established in 1871, has  Nobel Prize Winners and members of the French Academy among its members.  It is estimated that a large percentage of businesses in France use graphology in human resources for screening, vetting and profiling.
  • In Germany, handwriting psychology has been taught in universities for 80 years with a 2-year graphology course for all psychology students at School of Psychology & Philosophy at Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg.  The Psychology of Handwriting and Medical graphology has been taught at Leipzig University since 1994.
  • Barcelona and Urbino Universities also host graphology courses.
  • There are also courses at tertiary centres in China, India and Indonesia.

Quote  from the Dana Foundation website explaining how writing indicates problems psychologically, physiologically and pathologically.

‘Anatomically, even scrawling a quick note to yourself, “pick up milk,” is a complex voluntary procedure, engaging the cooperation of all lobes of your cerebral cortex with other parts of your brain—including the limbic system, hippocampus, brain stem, and cerebellum—and finally the spinal cord, which sends impulses out to your hands and fingers. Damage to any of these parts will affect your fingers. Once the signal is initiated, it travels along the pyramidal track—which monitors fine movements—to the fingers. Along the way, it passes through the limbic system, where emotion can again affect the signal, through the hippocampus, where memory can have an effect, and through the basal ganglia, which modifies the fine motor control necessary to write. When passing through areas in the brainstem such as the pons and the medulla, the signal can be altered by primitive impulses or unconscious desires. Before the signal exits the brain, the cerebellum plays a critical role by programming the entire process into an automatic habit. This programmed routine combines physical aspects of writing with its psychosocial and emotional counterparts’

There are worldwide research programmes looking at disease in handwriting, motor control and psychological factors with dedicated international conferences. The International Graphonomics Society hosts regular conferences around the world looking at forensic document issues such as signature verification, and pressure in writing. The Journal of Forensic Document Examiners carries articles for example “Writings of a Person with Dissociative Identity Disorder” and “Apraxic Agraphia in patients with Dementia” hence understanding disease in handwriting can be very important for fraud and forgery work

1RESEARCH FROM HARVARD UNIVERSITY: MAY 2013

SIZE DOES MATTER

The Finding:  Companies led by CEOs who have large signatures – an indicator of narcissism – perform worse than ones led by CEOs with small signatures.

“Companies, governments and security agencies across the world have long realised the effectiveness of handwriting analysis in vetting and screening key personnel. It should, however, always be used in conjunction with a combination of other screening tests.”

Stuart Poole-Robb, chief executive of KCS Group.

As more information about the human mind and the nervous system is researched, there is then more understanding of how the physical aspects of writing combine with the psychological and emotional parts of our psyche. Recent studies in psychology, phenomenology & philosophy of mind, and neuroscience – commonly referred to as “embodied cognition” – indicate that perception and motor action are closely connected and, indeed, reciprocally dependent.6

“Writing is the way we learn what we’re thinking,” University of Washington professor Virginia Berninger said.  Handwriting is a fine motor skill, utilising hand-eye co-ordination.

She studies the effect handwriting has on the human brain.

“Handwriting requires production of a letter form, stroke by stroke,” Berninger said. “The act of producing something supports perception, so we need to output in order to improve our ability to process what we input from the environment.”

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR DIRECTORS & MANAGERS.

The need for people to understand themselves – their own motivations, skills and emotional re-actions to situations is of paramount importance for an easier life.  How much do you really understand the people you work with? or even yourself? Self development using handwriting analysis can help, among other things, with:

  • communication – how staff relate to others
  • Understanding drivers and motivations
  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses
  • Skills – currently untapped
  • Stressors – key points

As a personal development tool, graphology can offer the depth and breadth of a personality – with the ability to identify issues affecting workplace situations.

HR UTILISATION

Job descriptions are becoming more outcomes orientated than task orientated utilising a competency approach; competencies are easily identifiable in handwriting.  Trying to match individuals to congruent environments assumes that both individuals and environments remain constant and it is therefore difficult to hypothesis long term outcomes between the 2 parameters.  Graphology can identify early years learning and environment which impacts on adult responses and decisions in later life.

  • Graphology is an acknowledged tool for recruitment, staff management, personal development and team building in Europe and Asia.  It sits alongside the interview and psychometric test and/or an assessment centre evaluation as an additional means of qualifying the personality, skills and abilities of the interviewee.  Using graphology an employer has the ability to profile staff, select and balance teams and locate natural leaders and therefore support any business harmonisation as well as avoiding the problems of “square peg, round hole” (SQUEGS) syndrome.
  • If graphology is used as a means of identifying subjective issues during the annual appraisal process, talks with members of staff can be more pro-active and beneficial long term.
  • Graphology can also be a great help in conflict resolution due to personality differences, through understanding what makes a person ‘tick’.
  • With graphology a company can assess if a member of staff is suffering from stress as a result of working in a way that denies their natural talents.

2Graphology in Psychological Assessment.

“Surprisingly, the  graphological factors can predict achievement behaviour independently from implicit motives”.

Graphology is aided by theories developed from branches of psychology – psychodynamic, behavioural, organisational and development as well as input from other academic processes. Most personality based assessments, including graphology and most psychometric tests, are based around Jung’s theories.  A feature of the psychometric tests measure the candidate’s own stated preferences, rather than underlining unconscious interpretations of life which may affect work performance and relationships. The MBTI is apparent in handwriting:- “…………when Christina took a look at something I had written. She immediately identified four key ages that had impacted me, …………….  She even identified my Myers Brigg personality type without me completing a single questionnaire – now that’s impressive. “  www.akashalonsdale.com.

In the book, Psychometric Testing, by Gareth Lewis & Gene Crozier, they state: “Little or no evidence of criterion validity (ie relevance to the job) has been found for many personality tests and scales.”  However a graphology report can be tailored for the design of the request ie personal development, recruitment, team building etc.

Other Systems and Theories that can be incorporated into  a Graphological Analysis:

  • Holland developed an occupational classification system that categorises personalities and environments into 6 model types – realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional.  Vocational Psychologists since have checked the theory and have found it to be fundamentally sound.
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need – Abraham Maslow derived a theory of motivation based on a hierarchy of needs.  If any of those needs are not satisfied then the individual’s growth becomes stunted.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a very useful framework to highlight what is necessary to satisfy a person’s basic needs.  Linked with…
  • Bowlby’s Attachment Theory – “…………attachment theory holds that early in life individuals develop schemas, or working models, of life situations they experience……………..”  Attachment theory which was initially intended as a study of mother/child interaction, now has robust research showing its influence on leadership, followership and organisational change.3/4

References:

1HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW – The Magazine, May 2013
Size Does Matter (in Signatures)

2Gruber & Kruezpointner , Psychology, 2015  The Influence of Implicit Achievement Motive & Graphological Variables on Learning Variables. http://www.scirp.org/journal/psych/

3Dr. Manning, Tracey T: Attachment Theory: Implications of New Developments for Leadership, Followership, and Organizational Change

4Harle, T: Working Through Change

6Mangen A; Velay J-L; Advances in Haptics (2010); Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the Haptics of Writing

Darling N. Ph.D; Psychology Today: 9-4-14; Step Away From The Keyboard: How Our Hands Affect Our Brains

Broschk, S.; Uni of Johannesburg (2008); Graphology and Personality: A Correlational Analysis http://hdl.handle.net/10210/1421

Cronje, P. E. ; (2009) South Africa; The Viability of Graphology in psycho-educational assessment

Cronje, P.E. & Roets, H.E.; Universal Journal of Psychology (2013); Graphology in Psychological Assessment: A Diagnosis in Writing

CBS Interactive Inc; (2014) Keeping handwriting alive in the digital age

Strang C; (2007) Proceedings of the 13th Conference of the International Graphonomics Society; Handwriting in the Early Detection of Dis-ease.

Biography

Christina is internationally known across 3 continents having been a keynote speaker at a specialised conference in China, spoken at an international conference in Australia on clinical graphology and taught at a number of lifelong learning colleges and universities in the South of England.  Christina works for various clients on graphology reporting for recruitment/profiling and document examination for fraud and forgery cases. She is also known for her research studies into handwriting in early diagnosis of disease.  She has featured on international and national UK TV and in various international magazines and media for her work.  www.christina-strang.com