Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 75.djvu/151

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147
VARIATIONAL FACTOR IN HANDWRITING

THE VARIATIONAL FACTOR IN HANDWRITING
By JUNE B. DOWNEY

UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING

HANDWRITING, bearing as it does the cachet of individuality, has always interested those to whom things human make their intimate appeal. Curious observations relative to it have long been current, the existence, for instance, of national as well as family and personal chirographics; the perversions of it that take form as mirror writing or even—it is said—as inverted writing; the whimsy shown by the bizarre characters, by the tendency to irrelevant and extravagant flourishes in the writing of those suffering from certain forms of mental disorder. Attention has been called to the similarity existing between a man's handwriting and the manner in which he walks or gesticulates. It has been claimed that age and sex and profession leave their impress upon writing, that the pencraft of the painter mirrors minutely the grace and distinction that marks the sweep of his brush across the canvas. Carried out boldly such speculations venture even the claim that the handwriting of any individual would be found to resemble the characteristic tracings shown by his pulse and respiration and fatigue curves. Nor is the interest in the variational aspect of handwriting restricted to recording the diversities in penmanship from individual to individual; it is also engaged in noting variations from day to day in the handwriting of any given person under the influence of fatigue or emotion or disease. But, however numerous, such observations and however legitimate the speculations they engender, it remains for the physiologist and the psychologist, with the aid perhaps of the sociologist, to compass the scientific study of the variational factor in handwriting.

The ground, however, has been broken. As has frequently been the case in the history of research, the claims of a pseudo-science, at once provocative and suggestive, have stimulated inquiry. In this case, graphology, the art that would find in handwriting revelations of intelligence and character, has been the direct cause of a series of investigations. On the other hand, modern psychological theory with its increasing emphasis upon behavior, upon the motor aspects of life, could not long ignore the opportunity for study presented by this most complicated and subtle act of individual expression.

Two lines of investigation have accordingly been inaugurated by the