What future determines my handwriting

Good question: what does the handwriting reveal about us?

When former US President Donald Trump signed a decree in front of the camera, he usually put a huge signature on the document. Whoever watched him might think: typical! This proves that the handwriting reflects the character of a person - from the font size one can safely deduce the self-confidence of the writer. But what is really all about graphology, the theory of handwriting as an expression of personality?

At first it sounds quite plausible that the way we move says something about our current state of health or our character. What applies to posture or gait could also apply to handwriting. However, there are now numerous empirical studies that have not found any significant correlation between personality traits and writing characteristics. Even acute stress and emotional strain can lead to an unclear typeface because the person concerned is handling the pen faster than usual. And if there were findings to the contrary, they were mostly based on weak statistical effects. To stay with the example of Trump: Presumably almost everyone knows someone who is extremely self-confident and yet does not have a wide-ranging handwriting.

This article is included in Brain & Mind 5/2021

There are also a lot of false promises circulating. Many of the statements made by graphologists are simply dubious - such as the one that a handwriting sample could tell the employer whether an applicant is pregnant. According to US “experts”, this should be evident from the width of the g-loop in the application letter.

Does handwrite at least reveal the gender of the author? No reliable statement can be made about this either. Nevertheless, slightly more women than men have regular, neat handwriting. This is probably due to the fact that women have better fine motor skills on average. But these differences in typeface have decreased more and more in the last few decades. In the middle of the last century, fine writing was still very important in school - especially among schoolgirls, who, as students, were trimmed to have clean, legible handwriting.

Many adults no longer write the way they learned to write in school. The handwriting changes in the course of life. How you sign your driver's license at the age of 18, for example, often has little to do with the signature 20 years later, because over time the typeface becomes shorter and simpler. In older age, fine motor disorders can also occur, which show up in handwriting, but not in gross motor skills. In addition, the elderly sometimes still use letters in Sütterlin script.

Not only age, but also certain diseases change the typeface. Parkinson's patients often have miniaturized handwriting called micrography. When neuroleptics were first used to treat schizophrenia in the 1950s, when the dose was too high, they caused symptoms similar to Parkinson's. The psychiatrist Hans-Joachim Haase introduced handwriting analysis to determine the appropriate individual dose. Because before serious side effects appeared in other areas or in the subjective experience, they were already recognizable in the writing motor skills. Two other factors are important: profession and origin. Longer school hours, studies and a job in which there is a lot of writing lead to a simplified typeface. The often illegible scrawl of doctors is a good example. Often the handwriting also reveals in which country the scribe went to school. The German "Schulausgangsschrift", which forms the basis of the lesson, differs in individual features from that in other countries.