Handwriting Psychology: Personality Reflected in Handwriting

Handwriting Psychology: Personality Reflected in Handwriting

by Helmut Ploog


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Handwriting Psychology: Personality Reflected in Handwriting by Helmut Ploog

If you find yourself called on to judge people on a regular basis, you need all the tools at your disposal to do your job right. Handwriting psychology offers one practical method for helping you learn what you need to learn about your subject quickly.

Whether you are a teacher, psychologist or manager, you can benefit from the guidance of Dr. Helmut Ploog, a handwriting expert. Learn what the size and width of handwriting can reveal about a person, as well as what more muted features-such as slant, spacing, and direction of lines-can make clear.

Written in plain English, this guidebook presents pithy explanations of handwriting movements, which may be angular or round, long or short, heavy or light, high or deep below the base line. It also offers analyses of the handwriting of many well-known people, including Charles Darwin, Anne Frank, Paul Getty, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, Frida Kahlo, Somerset Maugham, Pablo Picasso, Pope Benedict, Vladimir Putin, Maurice Ravel, Carl Rogers, and Susan Sontag.

Handwriting Psychology should never be used by itself to judge someone, but it can serve as an essential tool to make and confirm observations that could change your life, your career, and your approach to life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475970234
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/11/2013
Pages: 182
Sales rank: 660,150
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Handwriting PSYCHOLOGY


iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Helmut Ploog
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4759-7023-4

Chapter One



Handwriting analysis normally allows us to draw reliable conclusions about

• general personality (aims in life/guiding principles, level, quality, structure, transparency, and prospects for development or unrealized potential);

• intelligence; strength of will (vitality, temperament, energy, motivation, and ability to achieve);

• social skills (extroversion/introversion, team spirit, attitude toward colleagues, emotional response); and

• reliability (correctness, honesty, and trustworthiness).

Handwriting does not reveal the following:

physical features (bodily strength, height/weight, color of hair/ eyes, or illnesses)

facts (age, sex, past experiences, financial status, or destiny)

intellectual particulars (profession; special skills and knowledge, for example, in the arts, science, or politics; or whether one is a genius)

If the writer does not write very often, has no talent for penmanship, or even suffers from inhibitions in this regard, these factors will make analysis far more difficult in terms of handwriting psychology. This also applies to strictly disciplined scripts or aesthetically stylized handwritings, which do not provide for individual expression by the writer.

Difference in Test Methods

"The origin of testing stems from the needs of higher instances and can be pinpointed as first occurring at a specific moment in time. Graphology on the other hand has come about over the centuries through fluid sources of observation and reflection prompted by handwriting: in a certain sense graphology invented itself. This has allowed it to develop freely without being tied to any specific purpose or confined by specific themes." These are the words of the graphologist Hans Knobloch.

Graphology is not a test in the sense of being a standardized procedure but rather is a technique of evaluating and interpreting the character of the writer. (This does not, however, mean that graphology as a method has failed to measure up to the criteria of reliability and validity prevailing in the field of psychology.)

If we compare the practicality of various diagnostic methods, many aptitude studies, psychometric tests, and so on prove to be inferior to graphological analysis because of their intricacy and their cost in terms of both time and money.

Handwriting psychology and test psychology overlap or complement each other in their subject matter and methods involved. They stem from different traditions: test psychology originates more from the natural sciences, and handwriting psychology from the humanities.

A graphological analysis is an interpretation of complete elements in a writer's life, whereas testing involves individual, partial measurements. A test can frequently be evaluated using relatively mechanical methods, whereas graphological interpretation calls for a high level of talent and training in analyzing expression as well as a knowledge of personality theories. But anyone performing a psychology test also needs to be able to assess the effects of a writer's skills and character on specific professional situations.

The diagnostic viewpoint taken by graphology is wider than even that taken with a whole series of tests, thereby justifying the special position of graphology in relation to other psychodiagnostic tests. The graphological picture of personality is an ideal framework for incorporating other findings established through tests, interviews, and so on.

If handwriting samples from different periods of a writer's life are examined, graphology can provide an overview of the individual's entire life. Although there are studies in American psychology in which certain characteristics (the "Big Five") are traced over decades, no consideration is given to the maturity of the subject or successful self-realization. As in all cases where personal development is not completed, the tragedy here is an "unfulfilled life," that is, the failure to take advantage of the opportunities available.

Recruitment tests administered to job applicants take place in a laboratory-type setting. It is known that if people frequently undergo such tests, they can learn to give the "correct" responses, thereby falsifying the test results. Written documents, on the other hand, are the result of a single process in which the writer concentrates on communication and not on writing. With their handwriting, people unconsciously leave behind a picture of themselves.

Like psychoanalysis, graphology has great difficulty in finding recognition as a science. This is because people do not consider that subjective empathy and interpretation can be reconciled with a specific requirement of natural science, namely that any influence by the observer on the process must be ruled out.

Numerous American tests involving detailed questionnaires bring back to Europe the ideas already developed by C. G. Jung before the Second World War regarding personality types, functions, and attitudes. The basic mindset of a person is shown very clearly in his or her handwriting.

Graphology considers personality as a functional—or in case of a personality disorder as a dysfunctional—unit. No other diagnostic tool in psychology offers a perspective comparable to graphology.

This excludes any direct and isolated graphological judgment on single "traits".

Difference between Graphology and Questioned Document Examination

Whereas graphology involves evaluating handwriting characteristics with the aim of assessing a writer's personality, questioned document examination is carried out on all kinds of handwritten texts to determine the actual factual particulars involved in each case. In other words, it is performed to verify signatures on contracts of sale, checks, and receipts; to establish the authenticity of wills and testaments; or to check the identity of the author of anonymous letters against a possible suspect. Here the process does not generally involve just making a comparison between writings but examining the entire document in relation to the paper and ink used, as well as alterations, additions, erasures, and so on. The procedure for such examination is laid down in ASTM Standard E444-98 (Standard Description of Scope of Work Relating to Forensic Document Examination).

In general the handwriting expert is confronted with relatively obvious efforts at dissimulation, as very few writers are able to fully disguise their scripts.

The graphologist Patricia Siegel stated:

Traditionally and typically, handwriting experts prepare exhibits for court in which individual letters and words from questioned and known writing samples are cut out and placed side by side on a single board. The experts want the judge or jury's attention to be focused on specifically narrow areas of comparison. Exhibits clarify testimony and allow the court to better understand the basis for an expert's opinion.

But as the past has shown, no handwriting expert is infallible!

Lengthy training is required to qualify as a questioned document examiner, as is extensive practical experience. Although many graphologists also work as questioned document examiners in countries such as Italy and Spain, a much stricter distinction is made between the two professions in the USA, the United Kingdom, and Germany. In these countries specialists have not generally trained in graphology beforehand and therefore have to first slowly find their way about the world of handwriting and its jargon.

Admission to the profession is normally controlled by individual professional organizations:

• American Society of Questioned Document Examiners (ASQDE)—USA

• Forensic Science Society (FSS)—United Kingdom

• Gesellschaft für Forensische Schrift untersuchung (GFS)—Germany

The following are some well-known cases from the history of questioned document examination:

• the Dreyfus affair (1894)

• the Lindbergh kidnapping (1934)

• the Clifford Irving forgery (1972)

• the Howard Hughes Mormon will (1978)

• the Hitler Diaries (1983)

History of Graphology

Graphology was first mentioned by the Roman historian Sueton some two thousand years ago. Here he was speaking about the handwriting of Augustus, commenting that the words were incredibly close together, without the amount of space normally left between words. In the Far East as well, people have always believed that a person's character is revealed by his or her writing, and it is significant that they speak of an ink trail as "coming from the heart."

Systematic graphology, however, did not become possible until individual handwritings came into being. It was only with the gradual disappearance of the ornamental handwritings in the Renaissance period that the first book about graphology was published, a treatise written by a professor of medicine from Bologna, Camillo Baldi. Other works followed from Handwriting Psychology—Personality Reflected in Handwriting adherents of handwriting and amateur graphologists, from Goethe through Lavater to Alexander von Humboldt.

In the second half of the nineteenth century the term graphology was coined in France by Abbé Jean-Hippolyte Michon (1806–1881). It comes from the Greek, consisting of the words graphein ("to write") and logos ("word, study,"). His most important work, System of Graphology, was not translated into German until 1965.

Michon took an empirical approach to his work. He tried to group together handwriting characteristics of people known to him so that such categorizations could be linked to specific personality traits. Many of the interpretations established by Michon are still valid today. His graphological system, incidentally, reflected the picture of man held in that day and age—that is, the human psyche was seen as the sum of clear-cut characteristics.

In France, Michon's system was developed further by Jules Crépieux-Jamin (1858–1940), in particular by the introduction of the degree of harmony present in handwriting as a general feature. He was the godfather of French graphology, and his system forms the basis of the French method even today.

In Germany, it was mainly psychiatrists and physiologists who were interested in graphology during this period. Wilhelm Preyer (1841– 1897) interpreted handwriting as the result of impulses from the cortex of the brain. Georg Meyer (1869–1917) investigated the handwriting of patients with bipolar disorder and confirmed his working hypothesis that the characteristics of one's handwriting have a psychological basis. The year 1896 saw the founding of the Deutsche Graphologische Gesellschaft in Munich, which soon numbered 300 members based all over the world. They adopted a wide range of approaches to their research into the expressive value of handwriting for application in terms of graphology.

Ludwig Klages (1872–1956) was to German graphology what Crépieux-Jamin was to French—he is considered the founder of scientific graphology in Germany. He left behind an impressive number of publications and adherents, who still uphold his beliefs today via the association Klages-Gesellschaft e.V., based at Marbach am Neckar.

Klages defined handwriting as the lasting manifestation of the personal writing movement. His most important work, Handschrift und Charakter, was already published in 1916, with the twenty-ninth edition last appearing in 1989. According to Klages, the specific meaning of individual writing elements is not lexically fixed but has to be determined instead through dynamic psychological analysis of the writing process and structure in terms of expression and personality.

All elements of writing and their corresponding character traits have a double meaning. Whether this is positive or negative in each case depends on the individual configuration of elements and, in particular, the quality of the handwriting as a whole—in other words the so-called form level or rhythm of the script. This principle of graphology is still used today.

A different approach was applied by Max Pulver (1889–1952) from Switzerland, a system that was clearly demonstrated by the title of his most important publication: Symbolism of Handwriting. He lectured in graphology at the University of Zurich and was able to apply the findings of depth psychology to the interpretation of handwriting. For him the different directions involved in writing movement—that is, toward the top/bottom and left/right of the page—formed a system of spatial coordinates that symbolized the essence of a writer.

Another book, The Soul and Handwriting, the most significant work of the graphologist Ania Teillard, was based on the analytical psychology of C. G. Jung. Even today it ranks as one of the ten most important works of graphology.

Rudolf Pophal (1893–1966), who originally trained in the field of medicine, carried out a detailed investigation into the basic motorphysiological aspects of writing movement. He developed a system defining the degrees of tension apparent in writing, which could then be interpreted accordingly. Although neurology has since departed from these principles, the categories established by Pophal are still used successfully in German graphology today.

Robert Heiss (1903–1974) was the director of the Institute for Psychology at the University of Freiburg. In his method of graphology he distinguished between three aspects in writing: movement, form, and space, a system that has also been adopted in this book. In other words, the writing element is produced through a writing process that comes into being as a movement in space and manifests itself as a form as it progresses. Incidentally, it was Heiss who postulated, at the first postwar conference of the Association of German Psychologists held in 1947, that a writer should no longer be seen as a conglomerate of characteristics or a structure but as a process that is never complete. If we consider the writing of an individual at different stages of his life according to this basic attitude, our assessment will automatically acquire greater depth and dynamism.

Many graphological researchers had to leave Europe during the era of Nazism—Rudolph S. Hearns, Hans Jacoby, Alfred Kanfer, Felix Klein, Alfred Mendel, Richard Pokorny, Klara G. Roman, Ulrich Sonnemann, Thea Stein Lewinson, Herry O. Teltscher, Frank Victor, and Werner Wolff—landing in either the USA or Palestine. They were unfortunately not able to broaden the influence of graphology through their activities in the United States and ensure it was recognized at an academic level. Only Thea Stein Lewinson, who worked for the CIA for many years, had any success here, setting up the American Society of Professional Graphologists (www.aspghandwriting.org), which is still active today in New York.

Another important graphologist was Roda Wieser (1894–1986), who, like Klages, saw rhythm as a benchmark for personality. She interpreted the fundamental rhythm of handwriting as a cosmic aspect. "This cosmic reality thus also includes the integrated ego of man, which we experience in the quality of the strong fundamental rhythm apparent in a writing."

School Copybook and Individuality in Handwriting

In the world of graphology, handwriting is above all meaningful from the viewpoint of handwriting psychology when the writer shows a certain degree of individuality—that is, departs from the school copybook model. Children are first taught print script, followed by cursive writing. However, in the USA, penmanship has not been included in the curriculum of studies for new teachers for several decades. Students often merely write emulative cursive instead of real cursive. Once children have attained a certain level of fluency at around age nine, it is essential that they adapt the forms and proportions of handwriting in line with their own personality. In so doing, they demonstrate personal development and maturity. It is only then that their writing will acquire not only a communicative character but also an expressive character. But if graphologists are to correctly identify such changes, they must be familiar with the school model script or "copybook" taught at the child's elementary school.

The universal applicability of graphology can also be seen in the fact that writers show similar deviations from the copybook model regardless of their nationality and system of characters: circles used as i-dots, left slant, and imprecise letters and lines are not found in any copybook model, yet can be observed in writers from widely differing backgrounds.


Excerpted from Handwriting PSYCHOLOGY by HELMUT PLOOG Copyright © 2013 by Dr. Helmut Ploog. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


General Impression of Writing....................17
Individual Elements....................29
1. Space Picture....................29
2. Picture of Movement....................48
3. Picture of Form....................71
Special Questions of Graphology....................87
The Question of Intelligence....................101
Uses of Graphology....................117
Validation of Graphology....................131
A Few Sample Analyses....................139
Graphological Worksheet....................146
Test Questions....................149
Graphological Aphorisms....................153

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