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Is there any link between handwriting and personality?

Asked by: Erica Reynolds, Coventry

I remember as a child being discouraged from allowing my handwriting to slope backwards – I was warned my relaxed letters would be taken as a sign of an idle personality.

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Handwriting analysis, or ‘graphology’, which has its modern roots in the theories espoused by a group of 19th-Century French Catholic clergy, makes many such claims about what is revealed by a person’s writing style, some more eyebrow-raising than others. If you have low-hanging, bulbous loops on your ‘y’s and ‘g’s, for instance, this is apparently a sign of your sexual prowess.

Is there any link between handwriting and personality? © Daniel Bright

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, contemporary psychology views graphology as a joke – indeed, the claim that our handwriting reveals our personality traits is listed in 50 Great Myths Of Popular Psychology, an influential book written by a team of US psychologists.

That said, specific claims linking aspects of handwriting to personality continue to emerge, even in mainstream psychology journals. For example, in a 2016 study carried out by researchers in Uruguay, hundreds of people completed personality tests and then signed their name. The researchers reported that, among men, a larger signature correlated with having more social bravado, while in women, a bigger signature correlated with having narcissistic traits. So there might be some very specific situations in which the way you write can be revealing. The Uruguayan researchers suggest that signatures are a special case because they serve as a form of self-expression.

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Authors

Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.

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