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The Graphology-L FAQ
Section # 530 : A Legal Defense Of Graphology

The scientific foundation of graphology can be documented in reviews of the literature, such as Fluckinger, Tripp & Weinberg's (1961) A Review of Experimental Research In Graphology, 1933 - 1969., Lockowandte's The Present Status of the Investigation of Handwriting Psychology As A Diagnostic Method. ( Lockowandte 1976 ) and Nevo's (1986a) Reliability of Graphology: A Survey Of The Literature.

Graphoanalysis is a registered trademark of the International Graphoanalysis Society. It is a specific system of handwriting analysis, and comes under the broad classification of being a system of Integrative Graphology.

Graphoanalysis was first taught in 1929, under the auspices of the American Grapho Analysis Society. Since then, it has been subject to numerous studies, published in psychology journals. The major questions are:

  1. Is Graphoanalysis valid?
  2. Is Graphoanalysis reliable?
  3. What are the norms for Graphoanalysis?
  4. Validation of handwriting analysis.
  5. Mis diagnosis in handwriting analysis.

Is Graphoanalysis Valid?

Robert C Naegler (1960) found a correlation between Graphoanalysis and the 16PF scale.

Vestewig, Santee & Moss (1976) found that subjects could not reliably determine which report was from a handwriting analyst, or was bogus. Crumbaugh's (1977a) A Reply to 'Validity And Student Acceptance of A Graphoanalytic Approach To Personality'. points out some problems with this piece of research.

Crumbaugh & Stockholm ( 1977 ) found that Graphoanalysis is valid, when reports were matched by the subjects of the experiment. This is in keeping with the findings by Thomas (1964).

Barrow & Scott (1984) found that The Graphological Success Potential Instrument was valid, and also met EEOC guidelines. This instrument is based upon Graphoanalysis.

Inter-rater Reliability.

This question was first addressed by Galbraith & Warner (1964). They found that inter-judge correlation was 0.78. That is, two different judges working from the same sample will score the same traits with only a small difference in scores.

Vestewig, Santee & Moss ( 1976 ) implies that inter-rater reliability is low. However, no two Graphoanalysts received the same sample of writing.

Certification and Experience of handwriting Analysts ( Peeples 1990 ) found that inter-rater scores were similar.

2b: Across Time.

There have been no published studies of Graphoanalysis, showing whether or not the same graphoanalyst will score the same writing sample, with the same scores, or different scores, when presented with them, at widely different periods of time.

Handwriting itself does change over a period of time. These changes can be short term, such as after a few drinks of alcohol, or long term, such as the effects of brain damage.

2c: Different Tests, Same Results.

Replication studies in the field of handwriting analysis are few and far between. Compounding this is that most research in the field of handwriting analysis does not specify the specific system of handwriting analysis used.

Another major problem is that handwriting analysis falls under the category of being a projective technique. These tools typically are extremely difficult to validate. Replication studies tend to have scattered results. Moore's (1985) About The Sad State of Scientific Graphology. covers this issue.

Meta-Analysis of the various research studies does not show any significant trend, one way or the other. Dean's (1982) meta- analysis is typical in that it shows positive results for graphology, but with an effect size that is barely significant.

3: Norms For Graphoanalysis

Of all of the systems of handwriting analysis, only Graphoanalysis has attempted to do a normative project.

Orville Livingston (1963) reported that using more samples for his study would have been too time consuming, given his regular duties in forensic analysis of handwriting. His paper simply demonstrates how a prison population deviates from Zaner-Blosser and Palmer scripts.

Leah Belling et al (1977) cover some other problems in doing this type of research. Thus far, the IGAS Trait Norm Project has not been replicated, despite a 1978 announcement of a pending study comparing Mexican American trait norms to that of the general U S population trait norms.

4: Validation of Handwriting Analysis

The research in the field can be split into two different groups. That which is done by the academic community, and that which is published in the graphological press.

Meta-Analysis only recently ( Rosenthal 1984 ) was found to be a usable technique. Since then, it has been used by Nevo, (1986) and Dean (1992) amongst others. The net result is that the validity of handwriting analysis is still unclear.

Specific objections to handwriting analysis are:

  1. The Barnum Effect -- which is a problem for validating most, if not all methods of personality testing. See, for example, Tallent's (1958) paper on clinical evaluations, and how easily they can become non-individualized.

    Related to this is the Dr Fox Effect and the Aunt Fanny Effect. Both of these are also side effects of graphology having extremely high face validity. These can only be overcome by individual handwriting analysts learning how to write individualized graphological reports. This is something that none of the courses currently offered in the US teach. The IGAS Certified Graphoanalysis Course comes the closest to doing so, by providing what is colloquially called The Green Sheet.. The name derives from the color of the paper that has the suggested format for a Graphoanalytical report.

  2. Effect Size: This is Dean's only substantial argument against the use of graphology. The effect size is too small. In other words, for a specific individual, it possibly is not useful. For a large group, it can be useful. A survey of the studies he cites, shows glaring problems in research design, methodology and assumptions that the experimenters made about handwriting analysis.

    Mis Diagnosis In Handwriting Analysis.

    This is covered by Türkel ( 1932; 1933 ) and Hans Jacoby ( 1930 ). The only counter to the errors described in those papers, is continual education and experience in analyzing handwriting. In part to combat this, several organizations of handwriting analysts, have, as part of their code of ethics, a clause such as the following: Members must recognize the boundaries of their competence and the limitations of their techniques, and only provide services, use techniques of offer opinions as professionals

    that meet recognized standards.

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    Copyright © 1995 - 2002 Jonathon Blake
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