The fake science “graphology”

There is a real science that looks at handwriting. It looks at patterns to try to figure out who wrote it. For instance, if someone robs a bank using a note they wrote, the police may try to find out who they are by comparing the handwriting writing to other samples.

There is also a fake science of “graphology.” which claims your handwriting says things about you.

Scientists have looked at this (Beech 2005, Burr 2002). Generally speaking, most studies have shown better than chance success at guessing the gender of a writer by handwriting, with the average success rate at about two out of three.

Academic charlatans (i.e. certain evolutionary psychologists) will try to reify sex and gender through findings like these, but it is too early to tell whether handwriting differences reflect biological differences between people, or whether the differences in handwriting reflect society’s expectations for gender roles. The Beech and Macintosh article mentioned above is the best summary to date regarding biological differences. Burr suspects that boys and girls learn early in life how their culture expects them to look and act, even in their handwriting. Several studies have found that the writing of identical twins, while strikingly similar, is nonetheless distinguishable (Newman 1937, Wanscher 1943, Beacom 1960, Gamble 1980). Given that most people can alter their handwriting to appear different with practice, this skill seems largely learned and based on social constructs.

Handwriting and gender


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