The assessment of handwriting to identify the writer.
Adam Brand writes letters of opinion and court compliant reports, e.g. CPR Part 35 reports for civil cases. Letters of opinion are addressed to the client. Court compliant reports are addressed to the judge and contain copies of all relevant documents and a signed Statement of Truth, etc.
Questioned documents and known documents are required. Ideally the known authentic material should have been written within a three year period either side of the date of the questioned material. With signatures at least eight known signatures with their dates are required; dates are needed as a person’s writing can change over time.
The more signatures available for examination, the better, especially if a client’s known writing has a wide range of variation. Ideally all materials should be ‘wet ink’ originals but Adam Brand does work with photo copies.
Fees are not charged on an hourly basis. An initial quote is made over the phone or by email and this is confirmed once the material has been provided. An invoice is sent after the report has been written and the report is emailed to the client once payment has been received.
After all the documents for an examination have been received, either by post or email, Adam Brand requires at least five working days to write a CPR Part 35 report. Deadline issues are discussed at the instruction stage, so reports can be written to a tighter schedule if necessary.
Adam Brand does much of his work using photo copies. But originals are important. The reason is that, unlike photo copies, original documents allow for an examination of the pressure, width, borders and texture of the writing stroke (the ductus).
With photo copies, however, the pressure cannot be measured, there may be breaks in the line not present in the original and the size may not be exactly the same as the original.
For the examination of copies, high powered microscopes are not used as they distort images which lessen their value for comparison purposes. Visual and standard magnifier examination is the usual method.
When only photo copies are available, studies (such as :‘Found B., Rogers, D.K. The Forensic Science Society, 2005, 29) have demonstrated that ‘examiners can make accurate observations regarding the authorship of non-original handwriting’.
It is generally not possible to tell who the forger is. When a person tries to forge another person’s handwriting or signature they have to lose their own handwriting characteristics and attempt to take on the characteristics of the person whose writing they are trying to forge.
This means the handwriting examiner has to try to look through two ‘screens’ to discover the perpetrator. If there is only a small amount of forged handwriting available it is impossible to come to any useful conclusion.
If, on the other hand, the forged handwriting stretches across a number of pages, some unique handwriting characteristic of the forger could leak out. Then, when other material is available, it might be possible to suggest who the forger is.
Signatures written out for a court report are known as request signatures. There is, however, no guarantee with request signatures that they have not been disguised.
They are not, therefore, as useful as collected documents or signatures written for purposes other than for the case under review. Some courts consider that request writings, written after the fact, are self serving, so will not allow them.
To increase the usefulness of request signatures one approach is to duplicate the conditions of the original signing. The questioned signature is removed from the questioned document and the person involved then signs a number of copies of the questioned document.
Request signatures and handwriting must, however, be done under controlled conditions. For example the writing of request signatures or handwriting can be filmed and timed. For request handwriting samples a standard set of words known as the ‘London letter’ is dictated.
The key to questioned handwriting examination is to compare like with like. Signatures often settle down well before graphic maturity which is reached around the age of 21. So signatures may be stylised and different to a person’s usual text handwriting. That means signatures must be compared only with signatures.
Genuine initials on their own should not be accepted as exemplars for comparison with full signatures. There are many examples where authentic initials of a person bear little resemblance to their authentic signatures.
One of the signatures will be a forgery as a result of tracing or computer transfer. It is an axiom of handwriting examination that no person writes exactly the same way twice and no two people write exactly alike.
Decisions as to whether or not a sample of handwriting has been disguised have to be taken carefully. Disguise is a deliberate attempt to avoid responsibility. But some signatures or writing are distorted because of factors beyond the control of the writer.
Examples could be temporary health problems or peculiar conditions under which the handwriting was carried out. Some of the many aspects considered when assessing the possibility that a piece of handwriting has been disguised are changes in speed, size, slant and style.
The study of handwriting to assess the writer’s personality.
Adam Brand carries out the full range of handwriting analyses but concentrates on reports for companies considering candidates for jobs.
His reports are both oral and written. Companies either use graphology as a way of choosing applicants for interview or as a check on the personality of a candidate after interview.
Originals show the pressure of handwriting and this gives additional information about the extent of the will power of the writer.
Originals, therefore, are important for assessment. But speed is often of the essence for companies, so Adam Brand does work using handwriting samples sent by email.
The job applicant should write something of a neutral nature. The writing should be in sentences on plain unlined A4 paper along with the person’s usual signature.
Adam Brand requests that candidates are asked to write in detail how they get from their home to their local shops and are then asked to sign the sheet.
(An example might be: ‘I come out of the front door, I close the door behind me, I walk down the path, I open the gate, I walk through the gate, I shut the gate, I turn left towards the traffic lights, etc.’.)
The reason that Adam Brand asks for the writing to be on plain, unlined paper, is so that the base line (the imaginary line under letters) can be assessed.
The reason for the writing to be very detailed is to encourage the candidate to think about other things apart from their handwriting, as handwriting samples need to be as close as possible to the candidate’s usual writing.
The reason for sentences, rather than lists, is so that the spacing (words and lines) of the handwriting can be assessed. The reason for the signature is to compare the person’s public image – their signature – with their inner personality – the cursive text.
When a person reaches graphic maturity they tend not to write the way they were taught at school. Graphologists examine the differences to help them understand the character that caused those changes.
A wide number of aspects – along with their interplay – are considered by graphologists, but the fundamental aspects, known as global pointers, are movement, layout, letter forms and the stroke.
The movement of the writing gives information about how someone expresses themselves; the layout of the writing gives information about how they organise themselves; the shape of the letters gives information about how they present themselves (their identity) and the stroke (the line of the ink) gives information about how they are within themselves, their psychological and physical condition.
Graphologists assess the relationships between these fundamentals to see whether they are in balance or in contradiction. From this they gain an overall impression that acts as a basis for the detailed analysis.
Typologies developed by Freud, Adler, Maslow, Fromm and Jung (used as the basis for the Myers Briggs questionnaires) are invaluable to graphologists when assessing the overall character of a person.
But graphology is not about putting people in boxes; it aims to provide a portrait that allows a company to assess the unique differences between candidates. It is the tension between two opposites that can distinguish one candidate from another. These tensions can be seen in what are known as ‘counter dominants’.
Examples are: large size + left slant = a person who wants recognition but is cautious; angular writing + light pressure = somebody with an aggressive mode of reasoning but no willingness for a fight;
large size + light pressure = attention seeking and ambitious but without the drive to achieve those ambitions; right slant + narrowness = a desire to be extraverted yet with anxiety about social involvement, i.e. a person who has selective friendships;
right slant + wide words + wide lines = a person who has a desire to be sociable but this is matched by an equal desire to remain isolated; marked differences between the signature and the text = a person who shows a difference between their public and private behaviour.
No. The subject does not fit the scientific method.
The stages of the scientific method are: 1) generating a hypothesis to describe how a dependant variable depends on an independent variable; 2) designing an experiment to manipulate the independent variable and measure the dependent variable and 3) concluding the hypothesis is ‘correct’ if and when the data shows the relationship between the variables is statistically significant.
Scientists want to be able to say ‘this means that’. But these words are rarely used by graphologists. Graphic signs have a plurality of meanings depending on the context in which they appear.
For example large writing can be interpreted positively as pride and generosity while negatively it can be interpreted as arrogance and boastfulness.
An example of a test, in line with the scientific method was carried out by Rolan Mergl of the University of Munich (New Scientist, March 9, 2002). His conclusion was that there is a statistically significant association between the trait of agreeableness in a person and the slow speed of their handwriting.
Yet graphologists know from numerous examples that slow writing can mean a number of things such as concealment, intent to disguise and predictability.
When additional movements are present, it can also mean irritability, rather than agreeableness, especially when a slow writer is faced with a quicker thinking individual.
Natural science is developed by the study of parts. Repeatable and testable (yet disjointed) traits may be good science but poor graphology. Graphologists aim to produce a balanced portrait in its totality and that can be more than the sum of its parts. This may be poor science but it can be good graphology.
A warning to psychologists (and by implication to graphologists) against importing the physical sciences into the study of human meaning systems has been made by L.A. Pervin et al (‘Personality, Theory and Research’, Wiley, 2005).
They comment that just listing the psychological parts of a person may leave one lacking a holistic understanding of the individual and the developmental processes that contribute to his or her uniqueness.
So although graphologists do not work in line with the scientific method their ability to comprehend the meaning of interconnected characteristics is the reason for their considerable contribution to the holistic understanding of an individual.