Consumer Psychology

What Is Graphology?

No two writers slash the same way on paper. Even further, you (personally) don’t write exactly the same way with each stroke of the pen.

You just received a letter in the mail. The note is a sweet birthday wish from a friend, or is it a family member? To your curiosity, the note was not signed by anyone, and the letter itself appears to have no return address. After asking around you are still no closer to identifying the anonymous author. There’s nothing malicious or worrisome about the letter, but you just want to find out who it is from. When all other options have failed, you turn to handwriting analysis, an age-old method for identifying personal characteristics from writing samples. 

Forensic Handwriting

If you were lucky enough, at some point during your primary education a government worker that specializes in forensic handwriting and signature analysis visited your classroom. The expert would have taken samples of writing and signatures from each student, and explained that a person’s handwriting contains clues about their individual characteristics of writing. It was a fun exercise that got most kids thinking about the wonders of ink and the uniqueness of personality. 

No two writers slash the same way on paper. Even further, you (personally) don’t write exactly the same way with each stroke of the pen.

In a professional context, forensic handwriting experts use samples of writing to potentially identify the unknown author. They analyze “size and slope of the writing, pen pressure, pen lifts, the spacing between words and letters, the position of the writing on the baseline (the position of the character in relation to the ruled or imaginary line), height relationships, beginning and ending strokes, and line quality” (Harrison et. al., 2009, p. 1). This forensic science of handwriting analysis and comparison is still used in courts of law today. 

It turns out that this is not the only historical use of handwriting analysis. For centuries researchers have taken a stab at deciphering personality from handwriting. 


The origins of the study of how written words and letters can reveal personality traits began as early as the 17th century (Brewer, 1999). Graphology has a rich history and has been used in many fields, including: 

  • Coaching

  • Counseling

  • Education

  • Employee Recruitment 

  • Psychology

  • Wellness 

Graphology promises to tell you all about personality— if someone is a follower or a leader, or if they are assertive or passive—all from the pressure of the pen. Unfortunately, graphology has joined other famous pseudosciences like eugenics and phrenology (Trubek, 2017) . In fact, graphology was voted among the top 5 discredited psychological tests by a Delphi poll (Norcross et. al., 2006). Nonetheless, the underlying concept of graphology—the things we do give us information about who we are—remains a core value in personality research.

Let’s take a look at three areas where footprints of your behavior are used to study personality. 

Big Data

You might not realize it in your day-to-day life, but the computer at your desk and the phone in your pocket provide an awful lot of information about yourself. Your location, your likes and dislikes, and what you’ve been up to and searching for are all measurable in the world of big-data. Everyday behavior—though seemingly insignificant and obscure to us—helps researchers find facts and data that can inform them of an individual's personality. 

Simply liking a few things on the internet allows researchers to infer intimate things about you. Researchers used people’s facebook likes to predict personal information: personality traits, political views, happiness, gender, ethnicity, and even substance abuse habits (Kosinski et. al., 2013). Going one level deeper, they  found that the following behaviors can provide a “360” view of personality on facebook alone: 

  • Friends

  • Likes

  • Network Density

  • Photos (+tags)

  • Shares

  • Url visits (Kosinski et. al., 2013). 

 In fact, it's not just facebook likes that can show your hand, all sorts of online behavior can reveal personal attributes. Other researchers have taken it a step further, and analyzed smartphone activity for an entire month. Stachl et. a.l, (2020)  found that the following six behavioral categories could be used to predict facets of  Big Five personality traits: 

  • Communication and social behavior

  • Music consumption

  • App usage

  • Mobility

  • Overall activity

  • Day-time versus night-time usage 

The amount of time that you spend playing games, the emotional content of your music, the number of calls and messages you send daily, even the amount of times you unlock your phone provide data points that can be used to study personality. So it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the actual words that you say in everyday language can also be used to study personality. 


The cliché “you better choose your words wisely” is backed by research. While the content of what we communicate—the descriptions, ideas, and symbolic meanings—tell a colorful tale of personality, so do the more dry articles and pronouns. Frequency of the usage of first-person singular pronouns (e.g., “I”) and first person plural pronouns (e.g., “We”) are related to personality and psychological adjustment (Dunlop et. al., 2020).

Researchers collected samples of autobiographical writing and analyzed the responses with Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) and compared them to results of the ECR-R attachment style instrument.The researchers found that anxious and avoidant attachment styles were linked to “I-talk” while there was a negative relationship between the same styles and “We-talk”. The power of language can impact our psychology, as the researchers further noted that too much “I-talk” leads to self-rumination, while “We-talk” is thought to build connection. 

Now that we’ve gone over the subtle but influential world of pronouns, let’s revisit the rich world of content, and add a twist of perception. 

Projective Psychology

Inkblot Analytics created a series of digital projective tests that profile a consumer’s psychology. In our Inkblot Test, users view a series of inkblot cards and are asked: 

  • What areas of the card they were drawn to 

  • How they located the particular features

  • What content and perceptual features they saw in the cards 

From these simple questions our AI-powered programs and PhD psychologists can better understand someone’s buyer behavior. For example, a consumer who responds to one of our specific Inkblot cards with thoughts of “feeling unique” can be linked to a specific consumer profile. This sui generis type of consumer (compared to the general population) is: 

  • 23% more likely to purchase lifestyle brands

  • 52% more likely to wear a brand’s logo

  • 87% more likely to spend the majority of their disposable income on branded products over generic ones. 

These results come from just one of our 36 available projective tests! If you use the entire suite on a consumer segment, there will be an entire psychological universe to play with in your marketing strategy. Learn more about how to capture your consumer’s psychology at Inkblot Analytics and check out our Platform, Hidden Impressions.


Brewer, J. (1999). Graphology. Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwives. 5(1). 6-14.

Dunlop, W. L., Karan, A., Wilkinson, D., & Harake, N. (2020). Love in the first degree: Individual differences in first-person pronoun use and adult romantic attachment styles. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 11(2), 254–265.

Harrison, D., Burkes, T., & Seiger , D. (2009). Review article - handwriting examination: Meeting the challenges of Science and the law. Handwriting Examination: Meeting the Challenges of Science and the Law. Forensic Science Communications. 11(4).

Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., Graepel, T. (2013). Digital records of behavior expose personal traits. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110(15); 5802-5805. 

Kosinski, M., Bachrach, Y., Kohli, P., Stillwell, D., & Graepel, T. (2013). Manifestations of user personality in website choice and behavior on online social networks. Machine Learning, 95, 357-380.

Norcross, J.,Koocher, G.,Garofalo, A (2006). Discredited psychological treatments and tests: A Delphi poll .Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol 37(5),  515-522.

Stachl, C., Au, Q., Schoedel, R., Gosling, S. D., Harari, G. M., Buschek, D., Völkel, S. T., Schuwerk, T., Oldemeier, M., Ullmann, T., Hussmann, H., Bischl, B., & Bühner, M. (2020). Predicting personality from patterns of behavior collected with smartphones.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(30), 17680–17687.

Trubek, A. (2017). Sorry Graphology Is Not A Real Science. JSTOR Daily.

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