Imagine applying for a job, a position you really want and feel is a good match for your skills, and during the interview process you are seated in front of a psychic. The psychic is wearing full regalia, with a turban, crystals, and mystical garb. They proceed to give you a psychic reading – a reading which will be used to decide whether or not you will be hired for your dream job.
You can substitute any number of techniques for the psychic reading – a tarot card reading, palm reading, astrological chart, or phrenological analysis. Would you feel comfortable with such techniques deciding your fate? Would you feel outraged?
That is exactly what is happening in many corporations today, particularly in France. The technique that is being used, however, is graphology. It is as legitimate as any cold-reading technique (that is, not at all) but retains a veneer of scientific legitimacy. Graphology, or handwriting analysis, is a psychic cold-reading dressed up for the corporate world.
Graphology was first developed by Jean-Hippolyte Michon, a French priest and archaeologist. He published his first journal of graphology in 1871. The idea is that the particular aspects of a person’s handwriting reveals their character. Graphologists study the size, slope, pressure, connections, and other tiny details of handwriting, with each detail revealing an aspect of personality.
Like iridology, palmistry, and astrology, there is a complex system of graphology that can take years to master. That in itself, however, does not say anything about the legitimacy of graphology. People are industrious and we are good at developing complex systems based on nothing at all, except our imagination. Complexity alone is not a sign of validity.
The beginning of exploration is doubt. Skeptics learn about the many mechanisms of self-deception so that we understand that just because something seems to be real, that does not mean that it is. This is the motivation for scientific analysis – controlling for all of those mechanisms of deception and bias. Only then will we know if a phenomenon is real or not.
Handwriting analysis has been subjected to properly blinded experimental tests. Graphologists are given samples of text that are neutral, meaning that the content of the text does not reveal anything about the person writing it. They are also blinded to the target subject, and given the task of analyzing the handwriting. Their results are then compared to standard personality profiles of the subject, and to other graphologists examining the same samples.
The results of such studies, not surprisingly, show that graphology provides no information to the graphologist. Their readings do not match the personality of the target, nor do they even match each other. Graphology does not work.
Also see: How Graphology Fools People (QuackWatch)
- A French love affair… with graphology (bbc.co.uk)
- Graphology rubbish – no better than astrology or numerology (doubtfulnews.com)
- Can Handwriting Identify Better Employees? (news.discovery.com)
- The Endurance of Graphology in France (historypsychiatry.com)
- VIDEO: Does handwriting analysis stand up? (bbc.co.uk)
- Can Handwriting Identify Better Employees? (mashable.com)
- Graphology Expert Handwriting Speaks: Was not there, I Didn’t Fix, I Didn’t Steal (ibelieveinadv.com)