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Open Features: Graphology And Xylotechnopsychometry

David Marsh dismisses the pseudo-science of graphology, the alleged assessment of character from handwriting. In response, with tongue firmly in cheek, he introduces us to a new “scientific’’ method of character assessment, xylotechnopsychometry

Graphology - the study of handwriting, particularly with a view to character assessment.

A useful branch might be identifying samples of handwriting in criminal cases, e.g., threatening letters or ransom demands, or determining criminal forgeries such as signatures on fraudulent documents. However, I know of no example of a graphologist being asked in court to give a character assessment based on handwriting. This is obviously because the claims of graphologists are quite rightly considered as “hearsay” rather than “evidence”.

A cursory reading of parts of a book on the subject by an enthusiastic amateur suggests the character assessment branch started with clerics and monks during the renaissance, often those involved in education, and particularly in France. In the 19th century the philosophers and psychiatrists took up the subject and for some reason it became thoroughly respectable towards the end of that century. The author of the book in enumerating its uses includes "The entertainment value of determining the character defects of yourself and those around you." (Personal view: this accomplishment. if such it be, is about as useful as those of W. S. Gilbert's "Disagreeable man" who can at a glance "tell a woman's age, and I do." The exponent may well find that he is no longer invited to parties).


The discipline takes little account of left- or right-handedness, thus largely ignores physical difficulties in controlling angle or direction of slope. One wonders why, as the arc naturally described by the right hand tends to produce easily a right ("good") slope, whereas the left hand tends to make a left ("bad") slope more readily. Apparently the handwriting characteristics of the word "I", the personal pronoun, are very important in character assessment, yet I could find no sample in the book approximating to my own written "I". As might be expected, samples of the writing of Churchill and Hitler were shown with the inevitable conclusions, and of course no sample of that of the author. Presumably he prefers assessing to being assessed.

How does it rate as a science? To answer one question with another, why do I have the feeling that it is on as sound a basis as astrology? The "facts" are presented as a fait accompli, and are not argued out. Perhaps some exponent has done some statistical research, I do not know if this is the case.

There are good, bad and indifferent handwriters, and there are good, bad and indifferent people. My feeling is that the groups are not necessarily made up of the same people. I once saw the handwriting of a fairground operative. It was large, untidy, and slowly written. I doubt that an accurate assessment of his ability to operate a ride efficiently and safely would be afforded by a sample of his handwriting, as fairground operatives might tend to be short on education and calligraphy, and long on specific fairground skills.


Proposed pseudo-scientific discipline in which people's characters are assessed by means of their skills in carpentry and other wood-related crafts Probably best practised by carpenters, although it would be a fertile field for the enthusiastic amateur because most people can tell bad carpentry when they see it. The assumption would be that bad carpentry reveals negative tendencies or character defects in people. It would probably ignore the fact that the majority of people are unlikely to have professional skills in carpentry, joinery or other ligno-crafts.

It might tend to be as exasperating a subject as Graphology (q.v.), with which it has certain similarities. Nevertheless, there is no valid reason why a carpenter should not be as good a judge of character as a professional or amateur graphologist.

Certain historical documents suggest that carpenters and graphologists have disputed each other's abilities in character assessment and many other areas of life, and that in these areas carpenters may well be superior to graphologists. These documents abound with phrases such as “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees “and there is much talk of straining at gnats and swallowing camels. Only a camel-swallower could swallow graphology.


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