Graphology today

The purpose of this section of the site is to highlight globally the wide and varied responses toward graphology, ranging from blue chip companies listed in Forbes Magazine who rate it as “the most reliable method of assessing personality”, to certain UK companies such as Marks and Spencer who, while experiencing and accepting its efficacy, still offer resistance to fully incorporating this powerful human resources tool as a major part of their personnel selection process. I relate my own highly successful encounter with them to illustrate this point.

Coca-Cola, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are examples of some of major organisations in the USA that use graphology, and a significant number of major European corporations in Switzerland, France, Germany and Israel also make extensive use of the method.

This section also points out the fundamental, obvious flaws in previously conducted “controlled scientific studies” that claim to have contested the validity of handwriting analysis. I then present, as an alternative to these substandard investigations, non-biased modes of scientifically assessing the potential of this highly effective discipline.

Some testimonials to show the power of graphology include:

The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday 3 September 1985) – “Every time we hired somebody who seemed good but didn’t do well in the handwriting analysis, he failed within six months,” adds Hughes de la Taille, the deputy managing director of Matra Horlogerie, the watchmaking division of the Matra SA industrial giant. “The handwriting analysis of one salesman came back with the word ‘unstable’ underlined, but he was the best candidate and we hired him anyway,” the official recalls. “A month later, he just walked off, and we had to call in the police to get back our samples collection.”

The Wall Street Journal (Thursday 25 August 1988) – Some managers use the analysis, along with interviews and reference checks, to spot workers whose personal problems may become company problems ... “It’s the most reliable method of assessing personality,” a director of human resources at Land O’Frost, Inc. asserts. “I wouldn’t dare use it if I weren't convinced.” ... Companies using handwriting analysis say they prefer it to traditional personality tests because job candidates need take only a few minutes to jot down a short essay. By contrast, a battery of personality tests and several hours of interviews with a psychologist can cost as much as $1,000, says Michael Mercer, a Chicago industrial psychologist ... James Crumbaugh, a retired clinical psychologist who now serves as a research consultant to the graphoanalysis society, says there are at least eight independent studies confirming the validity of graphology as a predictor of personality.

The Wall Street Journal – “Handwriting analysis is quietly spreading through corporate America. With the government pulling the plug on polygraphs, employers clamming up on job references, and liabilities rising for the ‘negligent hiring’ of workers, it is one alternative managers are exploring in an effort to know who they are hiring, before they hire.”

Forbes “It is not unusual for European companies to have full-time handwriting analysts on staff to help personnel officers read between the lines. Now in the US, thousands of employees and prospective employees are screened via handwriting analysis every day.”

Chicago Tribune (Friday 4 March 1988) – The president of a large tool manufacturer says the results are ‘almost frightening’ in their accuracy. He asked some of the firm’s 150 workers to voluntarily test the concept before he bought it, and “I also used myself as a guinea pig,” he said. Those who took the test admitted it identified many of their personality traits and weaknesses, he said, ranging from a potential for developing stress under certain conditions to a tendency for alcohol abuse. No one lost a job as a result of the test, said the president. But he intends to use the handwriting analysis, along with verbal interviews and other screening methods, as an aid in placing future hires in appropriate jobs.

American Banker (Thursday 28 March 1996) – The bank uses graphology not only to screen job candidates but also to build teamwork, counsel employees and do career planning and staff development ... “We find it amazingly accurate,” says an executive director of a banker’s trade group that uses the technique.

The Press Democrat (Monday 16 December 1996) – “It is probably the strongest and most effective recruiting tool I have ever encountered,” said one senior vice president of human resources at a well-known Californian bank. “We do not do psychological testing because this, remarkably, gives us enough data.”

Security Management (May 1992) – In France and Switzerland, 80 per cent of the largest companies use handwriting analysis in employment selection. In Israel, handwriting analysis is used more than any other form of personality assessment ... Ford Motor Company, General Electric, the CIA and other organisations have begun using the technique as a preventive and reactive instrument ... The study involved 37 California firms that used graphology ... All companies reported an increase in their retention rates after the introduction of graphology, with an overall improvement of 28 per cent.

The Arizona Republic (Sunday 8 December 1996) – After a national search, a major toy maker was planning to offer its top post to an executive with impeccable credentials. But the company wanted to make sure it had dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’. So it sent a sample of the finalist’s handwriting to Mark Hopper, a Phoenix graphologist. His findings? The candidate was just what everyone thought: bright, motivated and talented. But the analysis also revealed a high risk of substance abuse. When the company reluctantly went back and raised the issue, the executive acknowledged that he was a recovering alcoholic. He got the job, but the company – with his consent – removed the bar in the executive suite ... “We’re like the scales of balance, the great equalizer,” said Hopper, who has done work for more than 1,100 clients, including banks, construction companies and hotels.

Some European universities offering courses in graphology:

Apparently, graphology courses are also available at the University of Bologna, Italy, funded by the Vatican. And also, though I have not checked the validity of this information, graphology is supposed to be available at the Italian universities of Modena and Roma and a recognised degree in graphology is apparently also taught at Lumsa University in Rome.

Graphology in France:

In the online BBC News Magazine there appeared an article on handwriting analysis on 29 April 2013, written in Paris by the journalist Hugh Schofield and entitled ‘A French love affair... with graphology’. He writes:

“In most of the world, the use of graphology in recruitment is marginal. But in France – despite an appreciable decline of writing in recent years thanks to computers – the technique is proving remarkably resilient. Reliable figures are hard to come by. Graphologists themselves say that between 50 and 75% of companies make some use of handwriting analysis, even if it is only occasional. On the other hand, many French companies that do use graphology are reluctant to speak about it openly because the practice is not seen as sufficiently ‘modern’ or ‘global’. The last independent study was in 1991, and it found that a massive 91% of public and private organisations in France were then making use of handwriting analysis. If that was the case, then 50% today does not seem so far-fetched.”

Graphology in the USA and Great Britain:

American companies and the USA population in general, have always been considerably more open-minded toward handwriting analysis than their British counterparts, as can be seen in the testimonials shown above which provide statements from various USA corporations who openly admit using graphology – something UK companies generally don’t admit to.

The reason why the value that can be derived from graphology has not been leveraged by as many businesses in the UK as in the US may be due to the publication of some pseudoscientific studies that have challenged the effectiveness of the discipline.

It is well known among scientific researchers that it is incredibly easy to set up conditions in so-called ‘controlled trials’ that may seem acceptable, but which are biased either due to inefficiency or because the investigation has been constructed in a biased manner that serves to confirm prior assumptions.

For instance, all the “pseudoscientific” studies I have come across, have lacked sufficient financial support to employ highly competent graphologists and thus the researchers have been obliged to use “volunteer” graphologists, who are struggling to earn a living, and who are thus prepared to offer their services without charge. Indeed, even for a valid fee, the majority of successful graphologists that I have spoken to, have neither the time, motivation, nor the desire to ‘prove’ to non-believers the efficacy of a system that has already been accepted and proven in the eyes of those who matter – namely, the companies who are paying them ver substantial fees for their invaluable services.

So if there are sceptics who genuinely wish to conduct valid studies into the efficacy of graphology, then instead of using deficient modes of investigation that merely confirm a pre-existing, biased position, they need to provide a fee sufficient to persuade truly competent, successful graphologists to be their research subjects and, more importantly, studies need to be set up in a manner that is genuinely seen to be unbiased, from a scientific perspective.

Just as lawyers in the USA, prior to a trial, are allowed to approve or reject jury members if they have a good reason to do so, the same right should be granted to graphologists who take part in any trial investigating their profession. This condition is necessary because handwriting analysis is a form of body language and, as such, it has the same limitations as the system of body language reading.

Any respected expert in reading body language will tell you that the amount of information they can derive depends upon the expressiveness of the person they are reading. Some people, like master poker players, have very few ‘tells’, and very little information can be derived from their ‘body language’, whereas others are like an ‘open book’ and can be ‘read’ in an instant. Indeed, nearly everyone has experienced meeting people with voice characteristics, facial expressions, and gesticulations that clearly broadcast who they are and how they feel.

Imagine a study that claims to assess the efficacy of body language interpretation by comparing the performance of a group of amateurs with a group of experts, where the task is to closely observe several master poker players, renowned for their lack of ‘tells’, in order to deduce key personality traits and behaviour.

If subsequently the results from such a study were to demonstrate that the experts performed only marginally better than the amateurs, then surely no intelligent person would conclude from this sub-standard methodology that body language reading is an invalid skill. For in this case, it is clearly the mode of testing used, and not the system itself, that is grossly invalid! (Indeed, genuine professionals working within the field of body language interpretation, are highly respected, and regularly employed by the secret services and the police because they are effective!)

And exactly the same scenario applies to handwriting analysis! Some samples of writing are so expressive and revealing that even an unskilled graphologist might be able to produce a reasonably accurate and interesting profile with little effort. But not uncommonly, one can also come across a ‘poker faced’ sample of writing that is so inexpressive, that expert graphologists will be unable to provide an in-depth analysis of the personality. Often the result of such reports will contain general statements which, though accurate, could easily apply to a wide variety of randomly chosen individuals with the result that some might feel that the analysis “is so vague that it could apply to anyone", because frequently, there is not much one can say about certain types of extremely unrevealing writing, and this fact needs to be clearly noted, since graphology, like all systems of knowledge – and most especially body language analysis, which is a ‘sibling’ system – has its limitations, and the failure to acknowledge this openly, which is typical among many professional graphologists, merely does a disservice to our profession.

So any study of handwriting analysis that presents incompetent graphologists with a carefully selected sample of extremely inexpressive handwriting, and then concludes from the inevitable poor results that graphology is useless, is a study that is, most definitely, inadequate and biased.

My personal experience with Marks and Spencer:

For any readers who might be interested, you can read the following story concerning an experience I had many years ago that epitomises the sort of difficulty that UK graphologists face when they try to persuade companies in the UK to use their services.

In 1983, I contacted the personnel selection department of Marks & Spencer and suggested they use my graphological services.

I challenged them to send me for analysis a handful of old job application forms that belonged to individuals who had subsequently been employed, and had already been working for them for at least one year. In this way, I explained to them, that M&S would instantly be able to determine with perfect accuracy if my performance "predictions" for the candidates were correct or not.

They posted me the original handwritten applications of seven individuals, and the reports I sent back not only described the personality and behaviour patterns of the applicants, but also, I presented distinct, unambiguous predictions regarding their ‘future’ performance, which meant that I was in fact describing their past and current performance.

There were two applicants whom I suggested would be extremely successful, two whom I predicted would be very average, and another two, whose performance I said would be adequate. The final sample of writing belonged to a male candidate who had every graphological sign of dishonesty that I was aware of.

I would like mention at this juncture, that I would never have considered questioning the integrity of a current employee of M&S, thereby risking his employment status, had I not been close to 100% certain of my assessment, and more importantly, given the level of this man's dishonesty, I was also convinced that M&S must have already discovered this fact and had taken appropriate action.

Normally, just three graphological indicators of low integrity are sufficient to denote a very real potential for dishonesty, so when analysing potential employees for a job demanding high integrity, I would not hesitate to turn down all applicants with three or more of these graphological signs in their writing. But I most certainly would not have "pointed the finger of suspicion" at a current employee with only three signs, since it is always possible that such a person might never actually express their dishonest potential, so my conscience would not allow me to be instrumental in losing someone their employment under these circumstances. But this guy had all seven signs so I was confident he had been actively dishonest and that they must have already fired him.

A few days later, I received a written reply from the personnel officer I had been dealing with, in which she highly praised my performance, and she told me that I should expect work from them soon, but said that first she would need to present my successful reports at an imminent personnel selection meeting.

A couple of weeks later I was informed that if they ever needed a special one-off analysis that they would obviously contact me to use my services but they felt that due to the vast numbers of individuals they employed on a yearly basis, that graphology would not be able to make any significant impact on their personnel selection, unless they were able to employ a whole department of handwriting analysts, which they felt would be exceptionally difficult to arrange.

Fifteen years and two published graphology texts later, I contacted M&S again and when I asked if they were interested in using my services the reply from the woman I spoke to was: “We have already tested handwriting analysis, and quite frankly we think it is a load of rubbish!” Sensing she was about to end the conversation, I exclaimed: “Just before you put the phone down on me, please check the work I did for your company in 1983.” A few days later the same personnel officer who previously had been so contemptuous of my profession called me up and said: “I must admit that we were all deeply impressed with your work!”

For a woman like this to change her attitude so suddenly, made it obvious to me that my candidate predictions, made so many years previously, had perfectly stood the test of time!

But like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day (in which the actor Bill Murray is forced to endure the same life experiences repeatedly!) after telling me she would recommend to her superiors, that M&S should begin using my services to screen large numbers of applicants, in order to save M&S significant time and expense on reading CV´s and on live interviewing, she contacted me a couple of weeks later to say that although the entire personnel department acknowledged and greatly respected my individual competence (since they had incontrovertible proof), that they felt obliged to turn my offer down, owing to graphology´s controversial reputation.

I have devoted a lot of space to this story because it’s 100% true and not exaggerated in any way, as can be seen from the letter of commendation from M&S which they wrote to me after assessing the graphological reports I wrote for them in 1983 (see second letter of recommendation listed in the section of this website: Bio & media: Certificates, diplomas & letters).

At this stage, there may be those who are thinking: “But if graphology really is such an effective means of detecting human nature, then why has there not been considerably more scientific research into this system over the past few hundred years? Why has it taken so long for it to gain any real recognition?

The answer is pretty obvious: before the 20th century, only the most educated people in society could read and write; the average person was invariably illiterate. Consequently, until literacy became widespread, there was little motivation to evolve the field of handwriting analysis, since at best, it would provide a means of assessing personality that could be used only on an extremely limited section of the population.

Nowadays however, it has been included as part of the psychology curriculum in a variety of European universities as well as at one university in Indonesia. For although it is far from being an exact science, graphology is now based on over a century of high-quality empirical research, and in the hands of a competent operator, results are remarkably accurate. Indeed, because it is so much less subject to manipulation than personnel questionnaires and interviewing, I strongly believe that it is the most accurate means of assessing personality available today. And this is also the opinion of many major corporations outside the UK who, for the past seventy years, have been using graphology as their most trusted personnel selection tool . And graphology is also popular with an increasing number of psychiatrists and psychologists who sometimes find it to be incredibly helpful in the diagnosis of certain patients, such as those who are extremely withdrawn or even utterly silent as a result of extreme trauma.