Handwriting analysis, also known as graphology, involves examining samples of a person's handwriting to produce a personality profile. The theory behind this field is that you can determine personality traits by looking at certain aspects of someone's writing style. Handwriting analysts believe that since your brain guides your hand when you are writing, everything that you put onto paper offers clues to your "complete self."
To analyze handwriting, an individual is usually asked to submit a sample such as an essay or a letter to a friend. The content of the sample does not matter; it is merely a way to look at the physical characteristics of the writing. The slant of the writing and the amount of pressure applied to the paper are the first two characteristics that will be looked at. Other aspects of handwriting analysis include the angle of the lines on unlined paper, individual letter formations, and whether the general shape of the strokes is best described as circular, angular, or square.
While each individual factor does provide insight into the writer's personality, to truly analyze handwriting you must look at the interaction between factors. This enables you to build a much more complete profile. For example, a writer who uses heavy pressure and produces text with a vertical slant could be said to be very emotional and sometimes unable to keep his or her feelings in check. This passion and energy indicates a strong personality type. Conversely, someone who writes with light pressure and a slight left slant to the letters would be described as cold, indifferent, and slightly self centered. He or she would be said to lack emotional or physical energy and be purposefully avoiding emotionally-charged situations.
Handwriting analysis is used in pre-employment screenings, as well as to determine business compatibility. In some cases, experts may be asked to analyze handwriting as part of the jury selection process in high-profile cases. However, it is important to note that there are still many people who believe the use of graphology as anything more than an interesting party trick is inappropriate, since empirical studies have been unable to conclusively prove the validity of the practice.
Although there are many different books and correspondence courses available that claim to teach people how to analyze handwriting, there are no academic institutions in the United States that offer accredited degrees in graphology. Italy, Argentina, and Spain are the only counties in the world with universities that provide accredited degrees in handwriting analysis.