GRAPHOLOGY, PSYCHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF HANDWRITING,

GRAPHOPSYCHOLOGY,  EUROPEAN GRAPHOANALYSIS.

 

 By  Professor Francisco Viñals Carrera and Professor María Luz Puente Balsells

 

 

 

GRAPHOLOGY

 

Etymologically, graphology means the science of the study of graphisms (graphos: writing / logos: science). The various graphological specialisations arise as a result of the direction, or discipline, given to said study. In some of these specialisations (graphophysiology, medical graphology, forensic handwriting analysis, etc.) the neuter graphological method is used; that is to say, graphic aspects and sub-aspects are analysed using graphological terminology, without necessarily needing to make any psychological interpretation thereof.

 

Graphology is the study of graphisms, handwritten graphic symbols that represent words and ideas; this technical term graphism is to be understood in its widest sense as referring to any graphic expression, legible or illegible: punctuation signs, mathematical language, doodles, paraphs, etc.

 

From the graphological point of view, writing (a neuromuscular and psychic act) is understood to be a convergence of voluntary physical gestures that, via a semiconscious-learning process, become internalised, automatic and personalised due to a series of biological factors and to the sum of socio-cultural experiences.

 

 

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF HANDWRITING

 

Psychological analysis of handwriting, or graphopsychology, consists in the study and practice of advanced graphological techniques which offer a scientific interpretation of an individual’s personality based on handwriting and, in part, on doodles and drawings. Like psychiatry and dualistic psychologies, it looks at graphic-motor representations (writing) of mental activity as indicators of psychological states, as opposed to materialistic psychology which rejects the idea of mind.

 

The term graphopsychology was coined by the Italian graphologist Marco Marchesan and it is the term that has gained the greatest acceptance among professionals, although there are also other names used to refer to the discipline, such as psychographology, coined by Father Girolamo Moretti, and psychology of writing, by Wilhem Preyer, Robert Saudek and Jean Charles Gille. The layman tends to equate graphopsychology with graphology, believing them to be synonymous; this confusion is easy to understand if we consult the dictionary of the Real Academia Española, which defines graphology as “the science or art of ascertaining someone’s character through graphisms” (ciencia o arte de averiguar el carácter a través del grafismo). There is, in any case, a close relation between the two; graphopsychology is a specialisation within the field of graphology – not the only one, but certainly the most well known.

 

Graphopsychology, used as a projective technique, fits within the general framework of psychiatry as a way of diagnosing a patient’s state of mind. It is considered one more personality assessment tool within a scientific protocol which psychiatrists follow exactly, step by step, called the exploration of psychological or psychopathological symptoms.

 

Exploration of psychological or psychopathological symptoms is carried out by interviewing the patient as well as their family members, friends and colleagues; then there are “diagnostic” interviews, various medical tests, batteries of tests, and even the qualitative analysis of writing, all of which offer data and direct information concerning the person’s state or mental processes. Most of this method can be applied to criminology, especially in interviewing suspects.

 

 

GRAPHOPSYCHOLOGY AND PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS

 

 

Humans invented writing as a way of putting down anything that could be expressed – events, ideas or feelings – and not as a means of psychomotor exploration (graphophysiology, medical graphology, etc.) or of mental exploration (graphopathology, graphopsychology, etc.) or of identifying the writer (handwriting analysis); rather, all of these were a later result of observation, experimentation and the discovery of correlations. Graphology is, then, a body of systematised knowledge acquired through rigorous application of the scientific method. Graphology itself is not a test, but rather a science made up of various specialisations. Nevertheless, distinguished scholars have created tests ("tools which have been painstakingly and scientifically designed to statistically measure certain psychological aspects of the complicated human personality”, J. Paricio) based on graphological premises, that is to say, on aspects and sub-aspects of the graphological method. Notable examples are Dr Malespine’s graphe test, Salvador Escala’s test palográfico (palographic test), and Dr Emilio Mira y López’s myokinetic test (PMK), which is currently being developed by Dr Josep Maria Tous Ral.

 

The many similarities between the Rorschach test and graphology (laws of interpretation: symbolism related to space, area, shape, etc.) are the result of their common projective focus, even if (as Bohm points out) the two differ in terms of the reactive mechanism: "impression" versus "expression". That is, the Rorschach test offers information via perceptive channels (visual stimuli) as opposed to action channels (expressive movements) in graphology, or instinctive channels (the representation of desires) in the Szondi test. For this reason E. Bohm stated that the Rorschach technique “can be rounded off with the Szondi test (a combination which is also used in the Menninger Clinic) or with graphology".

 

The author insists that a background in psychology is indispensable if one hopes to gain a correct evaluation through these tests, whether used separately or together: “What graphology and the Szondi test have in common with the Rorschach test is that they are all only tools and that mere mastery of the technique is not sufficient to guarantee results: what is most important is knowledge of psychology”.

 

This is so because all these tests follow the same general rules of interpretation: 1) overall perspective, 2) scientific study of its components (statistics), and 3) critical synthesis of the whole (diagnosis).

 

As far as graphology is concerned, there is no one specific criterion – nevertheless, one can combine the following steps used in establishing a graphodiagnosis:

 

1. General recognition of the graphic aspects and sub-aspects

2. Recognition and interpretation of basic graphic signs (the most significant ones, those with greatest strength)

3. Recognition and interpretation of secondary graphic signs

4. Recognition and interpretation of type-gestures

5. Interrelation of the various interpretations of graphic signs (basic, secondary and type-gesture) This is the most complicated phase, whose difficulty is not associated with recognising the graphic components (technique/science), but rather with correctly interpreting and evaluating (intuition plus knowledge of psychology) their merger and the potential combinations.  It is the same way with an architect, who raises solid, stable buildings (engineering/mathematics), and yet does not forget the artistic sense, the expressive and aesthetic wealth of the parts.

 

To do this, the following guidelines must be followed:

 

1. The writing sample is to be interpreted as a whole, based on the study and understanding of its parts. 

2. There are no absolute values: the signs in and of themselves are ambiguous and lack any meaning taken alone.

3. The meaning of a sign will change depending on the meaning of the others.

 

 

European GRAPHOANALYSIS

 

In Europe (Spain) and in the whole Latin America,   Graphoanalysis is a generic term, often used interchangeably with graphology or graphopsychology; graphoanalysts, however, use the scientific method in their studies and prefer to distance themselves from more frivolous uses of graphology.

 

Current methods of graphoanalysis:

 

- Augusto Vels’s Graphoanalytical Method

 

This scientific method has been adopted by the Spanish school of graphology which was founded by Professor Augusto Vels, who is also the founder of the Spanish Association of Consultant Graphologists (“Agrupación de Grafoanalistas Consultivos de España” –“AGC de España”-). The method consists in an evaluation of graphic traits classified into aspects and sub-aspects; once the scoring of dominants and subdominants has been made, a profile is obtained of the predominant Hippocratic temperament (Periot), the characterological combination (Heymans-Le Senne), attitude towards life and psychic function (Jung).

 

- Viñals and Puente's computerised system of Transactional Graphoanalysis

 

The undersigned have continued to work with this school, keeping it up to date with the incorporation of a characterology derived from Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis, contributing this method’s typological percentile which is arrived at after evaluating the graphic traits of a sample of handwriting. The academic world has recognised the contributions made by this field and have made it one of the main elements in the university specialisation in the psychological analysis of handwriting (Graduate School, Universidad Autònoma de Barcelona ). The two systems are complementary and have been computerised, meaning that once the dominants and subdominants have been scored, the percentiles appear automatically.

 

 

 

 

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