January 10th, 2018
Graphology is a Pseudoscience
Admitting scientific evidence in courts has been a concern since such evidence is a core basis upon which the jury renders its judgment. Arising from such importance of expert evidence, the United States Supreme Court, in the case of Daubert v. Merrell Doe Pharmaceuticals, Inc., made district judges the “gatekeepers” to ensure that speculative and unreliable evidence does not reach the jury (Bassett & Clare, 2011). Such a precedent presents challenges the use of graphology in evidence, since, as argued out in this paper, Graphology is a pseudoscience whose claims do not have the support of a scientific methodology.
One aspect that renders graphology to be a pseudoscience is that its claims lack scientific support. Graphology advances that an individual’s personality can be reliably determined by examining his or her handwriting (Thiry, 2009). In this respect, it is considered that an individual’s ego influences aspects of ones writing such as slant of letters, spacing between lines and words, slope of lines, average width of letters, and average height of lower and higher extensions (Thiry, 2009). Based on such characteristics of handwriting, graphologists argue that the handwriting can map out an individual’s personality accurately.
Such a claim however has lacked scientific proof with various studies failing to establish the validity and reliability of graphological analyses. For instance, in a study by Thiry (2011), it was found out that the average validity of graphologists’ judgment was 0.05 when compared to personality profiles revealed using Rorschach test (a verified test used by psychologists to assess an individual’s personality characteristics). Such low validity implies that results of graphology analyses may not be generalized to every case of personality assessment. In the study by Thiry (2011), the reliability, i.e. the extent to which different graphologists could come to a similar conclusion based on the same handwriting, was also noted to be low (0.43). This suggests that conclusions arrived at by one graphologists may not reliably indicate the correct picture. Such findings, showing graphology to lack adequate validity and reliability, have also been replicated in other studies using different psychometric assessments (Furnham, Chamorro-Premuzic & Callahan, 2003; Driver, Buckley & Frink, 1996). Some of the studies (e.g. Furnham, Chamorro-Premuzic & Callahan, 2003) note that any correct depictions of personality by graphology are explained more by chance rather than accuracy of graphology
Another characteristic rendering graphology an unreliable form of evidence in criminal investigations is its evasion of peer review. Most of the support for graphology in criminal investigation point to anecdotal evidence to rest their claim that graphology can reliably predict psychological traits (Lilienfeld & Landfield, 2008). In its ruling, however, the Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Doe Pharmaceuticals, Inc. advanced that admissible scientific evidence is that which demonstrates an equivalent level of “intellectual rigor’ used by experts in the field” (Bassett & Clare, 2011, p. 1178). In the field, peer review of findings of any particular study is a common practice used to evaluate the accuracy of the conclusion arrived at by the authors thus enabling the publication of such a study in credible publication. By avoiding peer review, graphology thus fails to meet the standard required for scientific evidence.
Graphology results should not be accepted as scientific evidence in the courts since graphology is a pseudoscience rather than a scientific discipline. This arises from the fact that graphology has lacked the support of scientific evaluations. For instance, many studies have indicated that graphological analyses do not offer valid and reliable results when assessing the personality of individuals. Additionally, most support of graphology arises from anecdotal evidence rather than scientific evidence put to scrutiny through peer reviews. Accordingly, use of such evidence for determination in courts may prove to be an injustice to the person whose case is affected adversely by such evidence. Using the Daubert precedent, judges should thus not allow evidence derived from graphology to reach the jury.
Bassett, W. R. & Clare, S. M. (2011). Evidence. Mercer Law Review, 62(4), 1163 – 1185.
Driver, R. W., Buckley, M. R. & Frink, D. D. (1996). Should we write off graphology? International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 4(2), 78 – 86.
Furnham, A., Chamorro-Premuzic & Callahan, I. (2003). Does graphology predict personality and intelligence? Individual Differences Research, 1(2), 78 – 94.
Lilienfeld, S. O. & Landfield, K. (2008). Science and pseudoscience in law enforcement: A user-friendly primer. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35(10), 1215 – 1230, doi:10.1177/0093854808321526
Thiry, B. (2009). Exploring the validity of graphology with the Rorschach Test. Rorschachiana, 30, 26 – 47, doi:10.1027/1192-5604.30.1.26.