I can attest to this – at least as it pertains to France. When I was transferred from London to Paris in 1990, I was asked for a handwriting sample. I went to my boss and begged off, using the excuse that I was already an employee, so it really shouldn’t be necessary. He was pretty embarrassed and let me off, but I wonder what I would have done if he hadn’t? I’d say ‘unbelievable’, but sadly, it isn’t.
In the BBC article, Durand states that graphology is “based on Jungian psychology.” This guy doesn’t seem to understand that if you are going to attempt the “appeal to authority” fallacy, you should at least choose a credible authority.
“Sympathetic magic is one example – things have a function that mirrors what they look like. Powdered rhino horn is therefore used as an aphrodisiac. A long life line equals a long life (an analogy between linear dimension and temporal dimension).”
Sympathetic magic is a bit broader than just appearances. I would include: playing (name your favorite musician here)’s instrument will help a person play that instrument, drinking cow’s milk will increase breast milk production, “like cures like” in homeopathy.
Perhaps you were not intending to define sympathetic magic in this quote, but its use beyond appearances is pretty common.
I don’t understand how anyone could take this seriously once they start thinking about it. Handwriting is almost pure practice, it’s a learned thing. Not to mention how trivially easy it would be to fake.
I can make my handwriting look however I want with practice, it’s called Calligraphy. Also if I hold the paper at a slight angle so the letters are no longer quite straight, does that mean my personality has suddenly changed?
@eiskrystal I agree that the ability to change handwriting without changing the personality, resulting in a probably somewhat different assessment with no change in personality, is evidence against graphology.
However, being able to manipulate the test is imho not evidence against it: Being able to go running before measuring blood pressure does not mean measuring blood pressure is scam.
@Therion – True, but the ease of changing personalities by holding your pen differently was merely there to highlight the inherent flaw of relying on a learned technique to guess someone’s inherent personality, and apparently…also current job.
I’m reminded of another bit of woo that’s been used to deny people jobs: Blood type personalities. Apparently in Japan, there are people who think your blood type determines your personality and are willing to deny people a job for having the “wrong” blood type for it.
I have a great scenario in my head where I look incredulously at the psychic, saying, “Are you for real?” When they start to object, I chuckle to myself storm into the other room, find someone in upper management, and say something along the lines of, “call me when you want your company to be taken seriously.”
I doubt I’d actually do that, but I hope that I would.
Hiring people is an activity with a poor rate of return. There are different degrees of dysfunction among employees and different levels of hiring difficulty for different jobs, but it would not be unusual for an employer to have some level of regret for about half of their new employees even with standard [legitimate] screening methods. That sort of randomness makes people ripe for superstition.
I read a book on handwriting analysis when I was in my early 20′s. It was great party entertainment for friends. Of course I couldn’t remember most of the meanings of various things so I just made it up and almost invariably people would nod their heads and look at me like I was reading their minds.
I used to do the same thing at happy hours with palm reading with the same response. After awhile I felt guilty and so I would end the reading with the fact that I know absolutely nothing about palm reading and made the whole thing up. They generally got upset rather than laughing at their own belief reflex.
And as far as I know, none of them learned anything from my silly entertainment and object lesson. They all continued to believe in woo.
“That sort of randomness makes people ripe for superstition.”
For activities in which there is a limited amount of control, or poor odds, superstitious thinking becomes more common. You are right, hiring definitely seems to fit.
The most obvious are gamblers and atheletes, for which superstitions become part of the subcultures. I’m curious if there are data that distingushes between sports. For some reason baseball in particular (in the US anyways) seems to have a reputation for superstitious behaviors/beliefs among the atheletes. I wonder if that is directly correlated to the likelihood of success for each athelete. A very good hitter in baseball get a hit maybe 30% of the time (1-2 hits on average in a game), but in other sports success may be more common or measured in ways that feel more within a player’s control.
I can’t remember where I heard it, and my lack of baseball knowledge muddies the details, but I did hear one of the major skeptics mention something like there being more superstitious stuff for hitters than for outfielders. I might have the positions mixed up.
Is it possible that Graphology is readily believed because we’ve all grown up with the ‘security’
measure of handwritten signatures? Occasionally I still have to sign for credit card purchases and I’m always amused by how different my signature looks each time, but it never seems to matter…
“I can’t remember where I heard it, and my lack of baseball knowledge muddies the details, but I did hear one of the major skeptics mention something like there being more superstitious stuff for hitters than for outfielders. I might have the positions mixed up.”
Yeah, I’m not a baseball guy myself, but perhaps they meant more superstious attitudes about offense (hitting) versus defense (outfield), because outfielders are hitters as well. I could see that being true, but that could also be a result of a more general bias towards offensive performance, which is true in many sports.
“So then, it is just chance a correlation that my handwriting is as messy as everything else in my life”
I have terrible handwriting, and I partially blame the amount of notes I have taken over many years of school. As a student, I felt the need to write everything down during lectures – therefore speed is prioritized over neatness. It couldn’t be a huge effect due to many other factors, but I wonder if there is any correlation between handwriting and level of education. I’m sure the fact that I put little effort into decent handwriting is the bigger factor, but I find that writing is a skill that I am using less and less.
I haven’t looked lately, but 10 years ago the evidence was that interviews are also totally useless in judging a potential hire. Only analysis of written documents (work history, schooling, etc.) had any value.
supernova – only the first of those four references are to an actual controlled study. Two are just commentaries, and the last is a case series without any apparent control.
The study on suicides, very revealingly, found no difference between trained graphologists and internists without any training in graphology. Therefore, if you believe that study, training in graphology is unnecessary, and therefore all of the apparent specialized knowledge of graphologists is of no value.
But the study also has a major flaw – the subjects (suicide attempts and healthy controls) were allowed to write letters and determine their own content. Letters expressing sadness were taken out, but even then that allows for the content of the letters (rather than the handwriting) to provide information. This possibility is supported by the fact that the untrained internists were also able to infer from the content who were the likely suicide attempts.
If that’s the best there is to support graphology, then the very evidence you provide supports the conclusion (reached by systematic reviews) that graphology is worthless.
On the subject of pseudoscience in hiring, is there any substantial evidence that the Myers/Briggs personality test is a useful predictor of anything? I’ve had to take these several times in business and academic situations, and I’ve always suspected that it is complete bunk.
Jared, I remember a heated disagreement with a bank teller at a branch of my bank which was not my home branch – same city, and it’s *my* bank, so hardly a suspicious setup – who refused to accept my signature as mine because it didn’t match the one on my ID in every little detail. I sign my name sometimes dozens of times a day, and as you say, they can vary significantly in detail.
On graphology, I was hired for my current job at an executive level by a management consulting firm charged with filling the position, a firm which used multiple personality tests and, yes, a graphology test.
I bit my tongue and the firm, which I’ve now worked at for 15 years, has been a great company to work with…but it sure made me consider carefully what I was getting into.
“but I did hear one of the major skeptics mention something like there being more superstitious stuff for hitters than for outfielders”
In Australian Rules Football, it’s the forwards who have the superstitions. They’re the ones who kick goals. If a mid fielder makes a mistake is not that big a deal, he can retrieve the ball or come back later. But when the forward lines up for a goal he is expected to kick it. That’s pressure, and that makes him ripe for superstition. One forward always pulled out a tuft of grass throwing it into the air to measure wind direction. The problem is that he had to continue to do this when, later in his career, he played in one of the new indoor venues. It was both funny and sad to watch….especially as he played for the Essendon Bombers.