Support: Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Graphology?
- Can you really learn handwriting analysis in ten minutes?
- How do you become a graphologist?
- What is the difference between gestalt and trait-stroke graphology?
- Are there organizations for graphologists?
- Is handwriting analysis an art or a science?
- Can handwriting analysis tell “everything” about a person?
- What can and can’t handwriting reveal?
- Can you analyze printing?
- How is handwriting analysis used?
- How is questioned document examination different from graphology?
- Is graphology really used in 80% of businesses in Europe?
- Does handwriting change?
- What is graphotherapy?
- What is the history of graphology?
- What is The Vanguard?
- Do you offer assistance to your peers?
- Does where you learned to write affect your handwriting?
What is Graphology?
Graphology comes from two Greek words–graphein (to write) and logy (reference to a body of scientific knowledge). Thus, literally, the word means a scientific study of writing. And, more to the point, graphology is the study of handwriting as it relates to personality. Although most people learn to write a specific copybook style in school, once the student has reached “graphic maturity” (he can write a sentence without thinking about how to form each letter or word), his handwriting begins to change and become individualized. That’s because every human has his or her own unique traits and foibles–no two people write exactly alike. Graphology is a way of understanding what makes someone tick.
Beware of those who promise to make you an “instant handwriting expert.” They might also be offering snake oil. Like other skilled professions, becoming a handwriting professional takes a considerable investment of time, effort, and money. If you are serious about wanting to understand human behavior and learning how to help people through handwriting analysis and personality modification, it’s not going to happen overnight. No doubt, you could learn a few parlour tricks to amuse and amaze your friends, and if that’s all you’re interested in, maybe the snake oil salesman will satisfy you. Otherwise, be prepared to spend at least two years (some European programs require seven years of study) learning and honing your craft.
Few schools of higher learning in the United States currently offer graphology courses for credit. Some private instructors provide courses through community services or night schools, and some good correspondence schools have training available by mail or Email (see the Links page or the Appendix of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analsis). Along with completing your handwriting studies, a solid grounding in psychology is a vital part of your education. Knowledge of normal personality development, as well as abnormal psychology and personality and behavioral disorders, will provide a good framework for your practice. Handwriting is often termed “brainwriting,” and a basic understanding of how the brain works and its effect on handwriting is another important component.
Gestalt is a German term which means ‘the whole,’ and is usually applied to a school of psychology. Gestalt graphology means that the analyst views the handwriting as if looking at a photograph. When you look at a photo, you see the whole picture, rather than its individual elements. In gestalt graphology, the handwriting sample is viewed in terms of the way the writing is arranged on the page (spatial arrangement), its form (style), and the way it “moves” across the page (movement). The trait-stroke approach (often referred to as “graphoanalysis,” which is actually the trademark of a handwriting analysis school) assigns individual strokes of writing a personality trait name, which the graphoanalyst constructs into a detailed picture of the personality. Gestalt graphology is akin to looking through a telescope –you see the bigger picture. The trait method is more like seeing through a microscope, one element at a time. Getalt methods seem to appeal more to conceptual thinkers, while methodical thinkers prefer the trait method. Learning how both methods work allows the graphologist to form a more complete picture of the writer.
Several non-profit organizations exist to promote education and research in handwriting. The most prominent in the United States are American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, American Association of Handwriting Analysts, National Society for Graphology, and American Society of Professional Graphologists. The National Association of Document Examiners is a document examiner’s organization that welcomes members with a graphological background who also work in handwriting authentication. See the Links page for additional information.
The answer is, it is both an art and a science. The handwriting professional uses scientific principles, taking measurements to obtain similar results from one handwriting to the next. The art is in the interpretation of the measurements and the other characteristics of handwriting, and applying them to behavior.
Handwriting tells a great deal about the writer’s personality and behavior, and provides many clues to his or her potentials, fears, and areas for development. However, it definitely cannot tell “everything.” While it is an important part of the puzzle, the results of a handwriting analysis should be considered along with other behavioral clues. If someone says they can can tell you “everything there is to know” about the writer, run, don’t walk, the other way, as fast as you can. Human behavior is far too complex for any one method to reveal “everything.”
A well-trained handwriting analyst uses handwriting to paint an accurate picture of the core personality of the writer — the way the writer organizes his life and time, his ego development, social skills, thinking style, fears and defenses, etc. Handwriting does not conclusively reveal the writer’s chronological age, gender, or writing hand. And, while there may be some cultural characteristics, it does not reveal the writer’s race or religion. This makes it among the most non-discriminatory of any personality assessment method. One last final word on what handwriting cannot do: It reveals a great deal about the writer’s past, but cannot predict the future.
Printing is simply one of the many forms of handwriting. Using the basic principles of gestalt graphology, the trained graphologist can analyze printing like any other type of handwriting. Some compensations must be made for block printing, as there are no zonal differences. But the pictures of spatial arrangement, form, and movement are still available for analysis. The same is true of foreign scripts, even when the graphologist cannot read the text. Gestalt graphology makes it possible to evaluate the writing, regardless of style or language, and develop an accurate understanding of the writer’s motives and behavior.
Pre-employment screening and profiling is probably the most widely used application for handwriting analysis. The handwriting professional prepares a report to help the employer or human resources manager to determine whether an applicant is a good match for a particular job and the working environment. Many employers request integrity screening in an attempt to avoid hiring employees with bad attitudes or who may be violent or in other ways a security risk. Handwriting analysis is also used for self-understanding, to discover where blocks to success may lie. Other applications are vocational counseling, compatibility guidance, and general counseling. Attorneys use handwriting experts to help with jury selection, as well as other types of handwriting examination. Law enforcement personnel and private investigators use graphology to work with witnesses, victims, and suspects. Educators use it to to better help their students. Another branch of graphology that helps clients make personality modifications is Graphotherapy or handwriting remediation — special handwriting exercises done to music.
Both graphology and questioned document examination are aspects of handwriting analysis, thus, are related. However, the application of each practice is very different and the two practices must be kept separate. Graphology is done for the purpose of understanding personality through an analysis of handwriting. Questioned document examination (referring in this case specifically to handwriting, not the examination of ink and paper) involves the comparison of two or more documents to determine their authorship. Many graphologists are also questioned document examiners. However, specialized training is required for document examination. Some important guidelines for anyone seeking a document examiner may be found in the O.C. Lawyer magazine article, which may be accessed by its link on the Articles page of this site.
In the early part of the twentieth century, graphology was taught in universities, and at one time it was said that 80% of the businesses in France and Germany used it in employment selection. However, during World War II, Hitler banned graphology under the Fortune Telling Act and graphologists were forced to go underground. In recent years, graphology has experienced a resurgence of popularity. In Italy, courses for credit are being offered at the University of Lumsa, and in Argentina at Emerson College. Membership in graphology organizations is growing rapidly around the world: England, Spain, Switzerland, France, Hungary, Iceland, The Netherlands, Singapore, Israel, China and Japan.
Handwriting is made up of thousands of variables. Some of these changes may be transitory and are mood-dependent, such as slant and size. Others change in more permanent ways. Major life changes are reflected in handwriting over a period of time as the writer integrates his experiences into his behavior and personality. Grapotherapy (handwriting remediation) can help one make deliberate personality modifications (see below).
Graphotherapy (otherwise known as handwriting remediation) consists of a program of “form drawing” exercises done to music, to facilitate the deliberate alteration personality traits. Important: this is not the same as changing individual letters in one’s script, which can be damaging! With this program, the changes come naturally, from the inside out, over a period of time, rather than forcing them. Graphotherapy can help calm the brain, allowing the writer to become more relaxed, better organized, or deal with past trauma in a non-threatening format. It is important to understand that we write the way we do for a reason, so changing bits and pieces of handwriting may negatively impact the defenses the client has erected, with potentially serious consequences. An aspect of “brainwriting,” graphotherapy should be undertaken only with the guidance of a trained professional.
The following documents have been found to be helpful to both aspiring handwriting analysists and experienced graphologists alike, so I hope you find them useful, too.
Monographs and other resources by Sheila Lowe (PDF)
Does Your Handwriting Tell on You? (PDF)
Handwriting Samples of the 2016 Presidential Candidates (JPG)
Independent Study Course in the Gestalt Method (PDF)
Code of Ethics for Graphologists in the United States (PDF)
Scientific Studies Concerning Handwriting since 1970 (PDF)
States Set Legal Precedence with Handwriting Analysis (PDF)
The Vanguard Certification Program Syllabus (PDF)
Any language can be analyzed using the gestalt method, but since each country has its own set of school models or copybooks, it’s important for the handwriting analyst to know where the client learned to write. Some copybooks will have more rounded forms, for instance, so a rounded handwriting from that country would have less weight than one from a country with more angular forms. Each country is likely to have more than one, but here are links to several common copybooks: