If you like science, you’ve at some point probably seen that thing where scientists just add “-ology” to the end of something to indicate a field of study. You’ve also probably seen a lot of not-scientifically-valid-scientific-fields (astrology, anyone?). In this post, we’ll be talking about graphology, but don’t worry–there is no math and we’re not going to make you plot any points. So what is graphology, then?
What Is Graphology?
Before we tend to the history of graphology and whatnot, we should probably establish why it exists. The long short; graphology is the study of handwriting. There’s quite a bit more to it though, and it starts to get kind of sketchy the farther down the rabbit hole you go.
The whole field revolves around psychology and handwriting, wherein one would try to learn about someone’s personality purely through their handwriting. At face value, this sounds like a fun game you might play with your friends until you realize that from the 1930s to late 1990s, graphology had a lot of sway in the United States.
By a lot of sway, we mean a lot of sway. We’re talking employment profiling, marital compatibility, and even making a medical diagnosis. In fairness, the way you write would help determine something like potential motor function issues, but imagine writing your “E” like a backwards “3” and then your physician tells you “yes you have the flu.”
That, or your boss saw you do your “y” or “g” with a loop on the tail and then deciding you weren’t a “good fit.” Wouldn’t be the most outlandish way people have been denied employment though. But it might explain the “doctors cannot write legibly to save their lives” stereotype.
Is Graphology Legitimate?
Alright, you probably got the hint that we don’t really think graphology is the best way to go about science, but what do other people who do science for a living think?
Before we even get into science, US law already isn’t a big fan of graphology. Because it turns out it’s not ADA-compliant (American Disabilities Act)–at least when it comes to employment. A quick summary, if someone with a disability under the ADA cannot take a test, then the test cannot be considered valid. It doesn’t take a lot of logical reasoning to figure out how using handwriting to determine employment does not comply with the ADA. People who have motor issues with their hands, people who might even be able to use their hands, or people who cannot see are all examples of how using graphology for employment doesn’t gel with the ADA.
Fun fact, Hungary also deemed the analysis of someone’s handwriting without their consent is a violation of privacy.
So even the lawmakers think the science doesn’t add up in favor of graphology–which should probably tell you that there’s some merit to it. As of now, it’s considered a pseudoscience, given that it’s almost impossible to make accurate predictions of someone’s (for example) job performance based on how they like to write the number “4.” Attempts to prove that there is a link have consistently turned out failures or statistically insignificant.
Basically, graphology makes no sense, and unless your office exclusively relies on handwritten notes (it’s 2019–please digitize if possible), hiring someone because you don’t like their “1” style is a little ridiculous.
As a fun aside, there was also this thing called “graphotherapy.” It was popular in France during the 1930s, making its way to the US in the mid 1900s.
It was the idea that you could feasibly change someone’s personality traits by changing their handwriting. Honestly that sounds more like an exercise in frustration than anything else, but alright.
Like handwriting? See if you’re ready to Celebrate National Handwriting Day when it rolls around here.