Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Handwriting Analysis: I Call Bullshit

I'm going to put it out there: I love Penn & Teller's Bullshit. It's fantastic. They take a bunch of issues people usually have strong opinions on and then call everyone on their, well, bullshit. It is one of the more honest and informative documentary shows I've seen and it's also totally funny.

I have an idea for something I could probably debunk, Penn & Teller style. Has everyone heard all about the people who tell you they can analyse your personality through your handwriting? It's called graphology and it's been around for some time. I actually once read a whole book on the subject and I thought it was interesting. It was a whole lot of 'on unlined paper, optimistic people write on an upwards rising slant' and 'creative types use more loops!'. It seemed to make sense, only I couldn't see any evidence that this wasn't just something they'd made up. With a few more years of experience under my belt, I'm now pretty sure that this is because one day, a long time ago, someone actually just made the whole thing up. I imagine it happening a bit like that recurring Mitchell & Webb sketch with the two writers brainstorming, a sketch I can't seem to find online so just buy the dvd you cheapskate. Anyway, this is how I pictured it:

"We can tell them your handwriting says something about you."
"Like, your personality. What you're into."
"So a bit like astrology?"
"Yeah, a bit like astrology. Only it can't tell the future. Just stuff you already knew."
"Will people pay for that?"
"It's not like it'll cost us anything to find out!"

Either that, or someone wanted a ransom note written in someone else's handwriting. They must have realised they could tell a person to write whatever they wanted if they told them they could analyse their personality with it. If this is true, I would love to meet the guy who decided to charge for the service.

But here's what makes me think it's a crank: I'm cross-dominant, meaning I can write perfectly well with both hands. When I was in high school, I broke a bone in my right hand. I tripped over and instinctively put my hand out to protect my face, cracking it on a nearby doorframe. What was funny was that the particular fracture I had is called a 'Pugilist's Fracture' on the basis that it is almost never caused by anything other than punching. When I told my friends, they were convinced that I was lying about the tripping and that I had in fact raged out and punched a wall. I tried to deny this, but then realised their story made me sound a lot cooler. 

"Yeah, the x-rays were expensive. Nothing compared to how much it's going to cost to fix the wall, let me tell you." 

Regardless of how it happened, I had to study with a broken right hand. Out of sheer frustration, I learned how to write with my left and as a result I can now write with either. The thing is that I have different handwriting for each hand. I don't know if this is common among people who are ambidextrous or cross-dominant, but this is the case for me. And I'm not sure what this means from a handwriting analysis point of view*. 

Here's what I want to do: Tell a graphologist that I have a couple of friends who want their handwriting analysed. I will say that because I don't want them to get any visual clues about them, I am handing in the samples on their behalf. I will give them one sample from my right hand and one from my left hand.

Then, then we will see. I would be very surprised if the results came back with 'These two people are so similar they could be the same person'. And I know some smartarse would try to tell me that maybe it's just because I have split personality disorder or something. For your information, hypothetical smartarse, it is a common theory among psychologists that split personality disorder isn't real at all, that it's usually just clinically induced in people who have narcissistic or histrionic personality disorder. In other words, people who have a chronic need to be the centre of attention so bad that they start making up new personalities.

I may actually try this little experiment. There seem to be a bunch of graphology sites offering free analysis, so maybe I will try it out.

-Smackie Onassis

*Although I do know what it means for an instant alibi if I ever found myself a suspect in a case where handwriting is being used for evidence. Don't think I haven't thought about that.

1 comment:

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