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What is a Graphologist?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2016
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A graphologist is someone who studies handwriting, and usually applies his or her studies to analyzing specific documents. In some cases, a graphologist is also a psychologist, because it is believed that handwriting provides insights into someone's personality, mental state, and nervous system health. There are a number of potential careers for a graphologist, ranging from assisting forensic document examiners to helping companies with their recruitment procedures, and training varies from brief internships to years of professional schooling. The art of graphology has been practiced for thousands of years; some of the Ancient Greeks, for example, boasted that they could learn a great deal about each other through examining their handwriting.

Handwriting can be used to look at several aspects of personality. When employed to look at questionable documents, a graphologist will look at how the individual writes in multiple samples, identifying distinctive traits which may reveal whether or not a document is fake. In a way, handwriting is like a thumb print; it is very difficult to fake, and no two writers are the same. Medical doctors may also use it to look at the general state of a patient's health. Because the hands are controlled by the central nervous system, changes in writing style may reveal nervous system problems such as temporary incapacity through alcohol intoxication, or the early stages of Parkinson's disease and other serious nervous system illnesses.

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However, a graphologist usually looks at handwriting to glean information about the author's personality. Graphologists believe that writing can reveal distinct subconscious personality traits, because the ego is often suppressed while people write. Also, certain traits tend to be accompanied by certain handwriting quirks, and a good graphologist can identify potential psychological problems, or just get a window into the way someone's unconscious brain works. By analyzing handwriting, it is believed that a graphologist can predict compatibility with other people or a job, identify areas of tension in someone's life, and see what kind of emotions the person was experiencing while he or she wrote.

In most areas of the world, there is no formal legal definition for a graphologist. Most graphologists learn by studying with others, although some choose to pursue graphology after they have already graduated from medical school, commonly as a psychologist. Many forensic education programs offer graphology classes as well, and it can take years to become a skilled and accurate graphologist. People who are interested in graphology should probably start by studying extensive psychology, so that they will have a firm basis to work from when looking at handwriting.

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Azuza
Post 7

You know, I never thought about a change in writing style showing that a person was intoxicated while they wrote something. But that could be relevant in a number of different cases. For example, if a person signs a contract while drunk, they would probably be considered to not be of sound mind and then contract would be invalid.

So if a contract was in dispute and a graphologist did hand writing analysis and proved the person was drunk while signing the contract, that could basically decide a whole case.

dautsun
Post 6

@Pharoah - Analysis of handwriting for personality traits sounds a bit hokey to me too, but it seems to at least be accepted by some psychologists. So maybe there is a little bit of truth to it, I don't know.

However, I can definitely believe that a nervous system illness could cause a change in handwriting. So I think there are certain health problems you can definitely diagnose by looking at handwriting, especially if a person's handwriting gets worse over the years.

Pharoah
Post 5

I definitely think there are a lot of uses for a forensic graphologist, such as deciding if a document is fake. There is definitely a need for this service in plenty of cases, and I can definitely believe that a graphologist could tell if a signature was faked or not.

However, I definitely don't buy the idea that you can tell things about a person's personality from their handwriting. For example, I've known people that are very messy with extremely neat handwriting and vice versa. I think the only thing you can tell about someone by their handwriting is how they were taught to write.

seag47
Post 4

My best friend's sister is a graphologist in Washington. She has a job determining whether or not signatures on important documents are real or fake.

She is very thorough. Of course, a graphologist cannot take her job lightly. She could be in danger of losing her job if she guesses wrong about a signature.

Just for fun, she had my best friend and I attempt to copy someone's signature. We used the same ink and paper as the original person had used, so there was no difference between the three.

She was able to pick out the real signature with no problem. She even showed us the tiny differences that led her to her judgment, and we were amazed.

orangey03
Post 3

@Kristee – I believe that graphologists are well-respected by those in the legal community, but it probably depends on geographical location. For example, a graphologist might be sneered at in a small country town where the sheriff is king.

However, bigger cities with more developed investigative systems rely on graphologists. I'm sure that the FBI uses them regularly. It's no laughing matter to them.

It is sad that a professional handwriting expert might be laughed at by some and their work be counted as child's play. Those who scoff at them have no idea how useful they really are in solving crimes and preventing new ones from happening.

Kristee
Post 2

I have never heard of a graphologist before, but I suppose the title is the same as “handwriting analyst.” This seems to be a more popular term used on television shows involving forensics, because it is more descriptive and requires no explanation.

I once saw a show where an analyst was studying a child's handwriting in order to determine whether or not she was being abused at home. Just by the slant of the letters, the analyst could tell a lot. She used a light table and a magnifying glass to really take an in-depth look at the handwriting.

On the show, the cops really placed a lot of faith in the opinion of the handwriting analyst. I wonder if they really use them a lot in real life.

wavy58
Post 1

I have heard that a certified graphologist can tell whether or not a person was coerced into writing a suicide note. They can pick up on the tension and nervousness in a person's handwriting.

I'm sure this is helpful in determining whether or not there is reasonable doubt in suicide cases. It could be especially useful if the person who died had been suicidal anyway, because it could point to a homicide even if everyone in that person's family believed that he did it himself.

A graphologist could also detect the degree of tension in a person who writes a ransom note. This could help investigators with knowing how to proceed.

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