How Do You Dot the “i” in Pseudoscience?


Many years ago I always signed my name Alan D. Rutkowski. Then I read an article, probably in Reader’s Digest, about handwriting analysis that claimed signatures reveal fundamental personality traits. If I signed my name A. Donald Rutkowski, it would indicate that I was pretentious and hungry for recognition. If I signed it A. Rutkowski, it would be a sure sign of low self-esteem.  A. D. Rutkowski would reveal secretiveness. By far the best signature—Alan Rutkowski—indicates a strong leadership qualities and independence of mind. My way—Alan D. Rutkowski—was the signature of a conventional follower, highly suggestible, and easily influenced.

From that time on—I was about 15 when I read the article—I have signed my name Alan Rutkowski, proving, I suppose, one of the article’s main points. But is there any way for handwriting analysis to reveal that I’m really conventional follower Alan D. Rutkowski pretending to be independent thinker and leader Alan Rutkowski? Would my failure to put quotation marks around others’  brilliant observations would be a tip off?

Graphology is the technical term for this sort of handwriting analysis, and its practitioners are called graphologists. One graphologist claims that anyone who crosses “t’s” with whip like flourishes has sadistic tendencies. Sounds plausible. Surely someone who makes the crosses on “t’s” look like little guns is a Republican, and anybody who refuses to cross the “t’s” at all is a Muslim or a Jew.

Graphologists even claim that handwriting can yield important information about health. Here’s a quote from none other than the Dr. Oz Show web page: “Many years of compiled studies and research have discovered that everything from pregnancy to schizophrenia, thyroid imbalance to suicidal tendencies, cancer to Parkinson’s, mental illness to nymphomania, and much more can show up in a person’s writing.”

Here’s an example of what Dr. Oz is talking about: If you vary the pressure while writing, especially going from light to dark, it means you have high blood pressure.

It’s not hard to see how this works. Let me try. If you tend to put less and less space between words at the end of sentences, it means you have chronic constipation. If you dot your  “i’s” with little circles high above the line, you’re a dreamer. If you don’t dot your “i’s” or cross your “t’s” at all, it means you write political campaign speeches. If your letters slant both ways, you’re either bisexual or you have Parkinson’s disease.

Doing graphology is easy. That’s because it has as much validity as astrology and dream interpretation and appeals to those who love the sound of vaguely plausible ideas rolling around in their heads but aren’t big on empirical evidence. Contrary to Dr. Oz’s sweeping statement about many years of compiled studies and research, the scientific evidence for graphology is zero.

“Many other studies report the same finding: when there is content information in the handwriting samples, non-graphologists do as well or better than the graphologists in predicting traits.

On the other hand, in properly controlled, blind studies, where the handwriting samples contain no content that could provide non-graphological information upon which to base a prediction (e.g., a piece copied from a magazine), graphologists do no better than chance at predicting the personality traits (Rafaeli & Klimosky [1983], Ben-Shakhar [1986], Karnes [1988], Jansen [1973].” The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) Position Paper: The use of graphology as a tool for employee hiring and evaluation, (1988)

That graphology is used even marginally in screening potential employees is a sad indication of how far outrageous pseudoscience has penetrated our culture.

2 thoughts on “How Do You Dot the “i” in Pseudoscience?

  1. Hey, Alan,

    About this: “But is there any way for handwriting analysis to reveal that I’m really conventional follower Alan D. Rutkowski pretending to be independent thinker and leader Alan Rutkowski?”

    The answer is “no”. But one can easily find that out just by asking me! ….

    William Reuben Kaufman, High School music prize, B.Sc., M.Sc., PhD, CTM, ATM


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