Games like “Me and the Marry-Go-Round” [February] and “Traveling Through Temptation Town” [March] are really super! Whoever thinks them up sure has a great imagination!
Ruth Ann Cottam
So last night I was sitting and reading the New Era and thinking this is really a superb job and somebody deserves to be congratulated. Congratulations! The magazine is awfully well done and, perhaps especially from a vantage back here, combines all the good things about a letter from home and a breath of fresh air.
The January issue of the New Era carried in “FYI” a small blurb titled “Handwriting Analysis,” in which were reported the results of a study that suggested unreliability in several claims of graphologists. The report was from a master’s thesis and is a matter of public record. It is a study for which a reputable university awarded a master’s degree. Our role was one of relaying what the researcher had discovered.
We have received letters from a number of persons interested in handwriting analysis who wished to have it noted that not all aspects surrounding analysis may be hokum. That is, there are some psychologists and social scientists seriously studying aspects of handwriting analysis.
But as the following letters indicate, to separate the good from the bad, the sensible from the ridiculous, is almost sheer guesswork, and this in part because serious study of the way people write and what might be learned from it is so new and so uncharted and at the moment is on such a slippery foundation that few people seem prepared to give much credence to the claims of those who say that graphoanalysis is a clue to character and personality analysis. Excerpted below are comments from some of the letters received, followed by responses from some psychologists and researchers whom we contacted.
Your handwriting is controlled by the nervous system and messages from the brain. It shows your personality traits. It can show what abilities you possess. By studying your handwriting one can tell you of certain character traits you possess that could be useful in a particular field, or of certain traits that would not be very helpful in a particular field. An analyst can find such traits as deceit, dishonesty, materialism, cruelty, possessiveness—all adding up to a personality undesirable in certain jobs.
For five years I have carefully studied graphoanalysis, and used it hundreds of times in helping other people to understand themselves. I am a high school English teacher. Many times I have protected a student from himself by seeing his weakness as revealed in his handwriting and have guided him toward constructive performance. This is particularly true in regard to the potential cheater: if he is never given a chance to cheat, he has strengthened himself by being forced to learn the material. Resentment, regret, and lack of sufficient love in childhood readily show up. In conferences with parents, I can help the parents see a way to help the children overcome these problems. Other teachers bring me homework papers so I can help them to understand the student who is having difficulty.
The researcher who did your January article is not a graphologist, nor does he know graphology, nor did he employ a professional graphologist to perform the handwriting analysis portions of his study. Therefore, his study was invalid and based upon an inferior research design.
In passing, I’d like to comment on a few of the ways in which ethical and professional graphology is being used:
In Germany, ten universities require graphology as part of a psychologist’s training. Some 40 percent of the clinical psychologists belonging to the German Psychological Society are licensed graphologists. In Amsterdam 750 business firms admitted to using graphology as a personnel selection tool. In Argentina the government has restricted the study of graphology to medical doctors and those with doctorate degrees. At the University of Moscow, Russia’s famed brain surgeon Dr. Alexander Luria has his patients perform a simple bedside writing test before operations. He maintains the test identifies the exact location of brain lesions.
In America, Dr. O. Teltscher has done some remarkable research for the past ten years in Parkinson’s disease. Prior to that, he worked for the armed forces in personnel selection using graphology. Last April 11, 1970, the work of Alfred Kanfer, also in the U.S., was formally accepted as a cancer detection method by the American Association for Cancer Research. His test is now made available to any doctor requesting it. Mr. Kanfer researched a method of detecting cancer through handwriting. His method is 90 percent accurate. In the July 2, 1968, issue of the journal of the Research Institute of America, it was stated that nearly five hundred businesses use handwriting analysis as a personnel screening tool in the United States.
There are many ethical and entirely professional uses made of graphology, none of which fall into the category of the handwriting analysis that you debunked in your January issue. We professionals, too, abhor the misuse of the science by those who are entirely unqualified. In the USA, anyone can call himself a graphologist if he can pick up a writing sample and say one or two things that apply to the listener. The current graphology fad using IBM computers, computers that are actually card sorters, is an instance of this and is also an example of the generality of the whole approach. One can find similar quacks at work in nightclubs in Las Vegas. In the East, they are found at bazaars and running newspaper columns where, for 50 cents or so, they “analyze” those who write in.
President of a State Organization of Handwriting Consultants,
who signed his letter “We’re in the Yellow Pages”
Graphoanalysis is a scientific method of personality assessment as revealed through the study of individual strokes of handwriting. A trained graphoanalyst can tell the writer’s behavior pattern, his emotional responses, mental processes, fears, aptitudes, and talents. Personnel departments in many business organizations contract the services of graphoanalysts to determine if applicants for positions would make satisfactory employees. Teachers have become graphoanalysts to enable them to better understand their pupils. Credit and financial institutions make extensive use of graphoanalysis in appraising credit risks.
President of a Chapter of the International Graphoanalysis Society
One of the letters sent in included a small monthly publication whose publishers claim to have analyzed handwriting samples of some artists and to have learned the following about the writers:
“Imaginative and has creative fantasy, endowed with manual dexterity and coordination, sensitive to form and color, feelings hurt easily, perceptive, intelligent and possesses high mental ability, capable of empathy, contemplative and introspective, his goals are subject to rational control, possesses a well-defined self-image, bounded by early tradition and training, self-reliant and thinks for himself, aggressive and competitive, possesses inner feelings of hostility and resentment, needs the companionship of people to function well, requires solitude to function satisfactorily, libidinal functioning is sexual in nature, functioning emphasizes material values, possesses organizational ability, prone to depression.”
The same little pamphlet also announces a course that promises to offer “practical analysis and compatibility reports of a married couple having marital difficulties,” and “practical analysis in detail, in answering specific vocational guidance questions.”
Graphology is hardly a science (far from it) and very few graphologists agree as to meaning and symbolism of handwriting; thus, it would be very unfair to individuals to use graphoanalysis to determine job placement or effectiveness. Anything from a teacher’s influence to an arm injury may affect our handwriting. But to test 145 college students out of over 300 million people who speak, read, and write English (which is only one written language!) is like taking a thimbleful of water from San Francisco Bay and analyzing it for the oceans of the world. Since we do express ourselves in many different ways, I don’t think it exactly ridiculous that some form of our personality should show up at the end of our pen.
Stationed in Spain
The New Era staff called some reputable practicing psychologists and several university professors to help us report the present view toward graphoanalysis. “Total quackery,” said one. “Don’t quote me, but it’s sheer bunk,” said another. “I delved into the subject on my own. I think it will require a good deal more refinement before it will deserve full legitimacy,” said another.
One said, “Let’s face it—today is the day of ESP, the occult, and all such things, and science just hasn’t given handwriting analysis a serious study. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that handwriting analysis has some value. I don’t think anyone knows enough to make judgments on character and personality, but who knows, maybe even that—someday.” Said one, “I think most of us don’t want to study it because it is so identified with hocus-pocus that to identify the field of psychology with it would even further damage our profession in the eyes of many people.”
Another said, “Assessing personality by using handwriting analysis has not received wide acceptance by psychologists and many others in the U.S., although it holds a prominent place in the field of psychological testing in Europe. One possible reason for the lack of interest on the part of many Americans has been their reluctance to pursue and accept a technique or system that has been used and commercially propagated by the same people who read tea leaves and palms, tell fortunes, and engage in other pseudo methods of character evaluation and future forecasting for monetary gain. In the minds of many people, these commercial abuses seem to disqualify handwriting analysis for further unbiased experimental study. I am convinced that one’s personality is expressed in one’s handwriting, but I am equally convinced that a specific personality trait is not entirely expressed as a single stroke but would be manifested through many variables considered together—all of which need more research before reliability can even be suggested.”
However, even though handwriting analysis still seems to be generally regarded as unreliable, one medical researcher claims that he is having about 90 percent success in using it for identifying persons in a high-risk group who may have a susceptibility to cancer. By magnifying a patient’s handwriting more than a thousand times and then studying it very carefully, he claims to be able to detect neuromuscular aberrations that suggest the onset of motor coordination deterioration. This, however, is a far cry from personality assessment.
I am writing in defense of Tolstoi’s wife, Sonya [March]. It was after his marriage at age thirty-four that Tolstoi wrote his greatest works, War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Sonya bore Tolstoi thirteen children. While Tolstoi was busy being an author and philosopher, Sonya had complete responsibility for “the children, the management of his property, relations with other people, business affairs, the house, the publishers,” and a constant stream of visitors who came to sit at Tolstoi’s feet. (From Tolstoy by Henri Troyat.) Sonya did not want Tolstoi to sign away the royalty rights to his books, because she felt the ones who would benefit from this renunciation would not be the poor and needy, but the publishers, the rich themselves. Besides, the money was needed not for Sonya, but to educate the children and maintain their home. There were never fewer than fifteen guests at every meal. Much more could be said of the complicated relationship between Tolstoi and his wife. Needless to say, it was not easy to live with a man who tried to be a practicing and professed saint! It is one thing to renounce worldly goods; it is another to raise a family with an inadequate income.
One final thought: Please don’t change the New Era. My teenagers love it the way it is.
Mrs. John N. Cannon
The March issue reported that there were only twenty-six Latter-day Saint college students at Central Washington College, and you did not list us as having a college branch. We have between 90 and 100 Latter-day Saint students on campus now and 131 members in our college branch.
At this time we would also like to congratulate you on the past issues of the New Era. This magazine is really helping many of us to understand the world we live in more fully. We are looking forward to the next issue, which we’re sure will once again be a superior magazine.
Signed by twenty-one students
LDS Student Association