Israeli Study: The Way You Write Is The Way You Feel

Handwriting can now tell scientists how you’re feeling

A University of Haifa study has for the first time found a correlation between peoples’ handwriting and their mood. Using Israeli technology that measures hand movements and other specific details about form, researchers discovered that handwriting changes dramatically depending on the degree of one’s sadness, anger or happiness, for example.

Researcher and graduate student Clara Rispler explained that “this is just the beginning of a study that will have multiple practical implications. Currently,” she elaborated to The Media Line, “the methods of determining mood are either inaccurate or expensive, with options limited to self-reflection and observation from a clinical psychologist. An ability to identify a subject’s emotions easily and non-invasively could lead to a breakthrough in research and in emotional therapy.”

Quickly and cheaply discerning peoples’ moods could indeed have many practical applications. For example, studies have found that the mood of an individual interviewing a candidate for a job greatly effects the decision-making process. In the customer-service industry, feedback is dependent on a person’s emotional state, as someone who is unhappy is much more likely to be critical.

As regards the Haifa U. study, Ripsler noted that the process developed is “mobile, not expensive and only requires two paragraphs of writing.” The measurements are taken by a tablet-like device, created by Professor Sarah Rosenblum of the Department of Occupational Therapy, capable of evaluating minute changes in handwriting such as the space between letters and the amount of pressure applied during inscription. In this way, researchers found “statistically significant differences in the output of handwriting when people are in positive or negative moods.”

According to Rispler, analyzing handwriting can also help to evaluate cognitive function. “Writing is a learned cognitive behavior that has become automatic. Mood can therefore interrupt that automatic process,” she explained. Those interruptions, along with other variances, can be used to identify mental anomalies caused by mood. As an example, after influencing subjects’ temperaments using accepted clinical methods, “[handwriting] strokes in the negative mood manipulation were shorter in duration, width and height.”

But graphologist and handwriting expert Ruth Myers remains somewhat skeptical. “Handwriting can tell a lot about a person and is a very accurate determination of personality,” she told The Media Line, before qualifying that she is doubtful that penmanship can reveal someone’s emotional state in real-time.

For her part, Rispler contends that the results of the 62-person study are conclusive, albeit they can be expanded on. In this respect, researchers are hoping to enhance the testing in order to determine more complex moods and perhaps even illnesses such as early-onset Alzheimer’s.

(Benji Flacks is a Student Intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program)

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