There’s a clause on the back of the International Graphoanalysis Society’s membership card that exhorts its graduates never to join “any group dealing with the occult.” Today’s graphoanalysts—handwriting experts— call their work a science and are far more interested in the boardroom than in the beyond.
Professional analysts'have rejected the isolated examples which the “howto” books of the past made popularlong, bold loops of the letter T, for instance, were said to imply a psychotic personality—and now base their work on complex factors which evaluate individual psychological makeup. As Diane Anderson, one of more than 1,000 trained Canadian graphoanalysts, says, “We’d never consider labeling a person anything on the basis of a single letter.”
Last year, HuVista, Inc. of Louisville, Kentucky, the largest of some 200 handwriting consultant firms in the U.S., crossed the border and signed up several Canadian clients. It was this move that inspired two Toronto women, Anderson, 40, and Pat Girouard, 32, to open the first Canadian handwriting consultancy this winter. It specializes in personnel selection and looks for emotional response, drive, motivation, achievement factors and the correct interpersonal skills when assessing
would-be employees. Fees vary from $25 to $100—and a full report takes a day to complete.
The majority of analysts use their skills in their work as teachers, psychologists or social workers. But since the success of analyst Frank G. Budd, 42, of Phoenix, Arizona, who now makes $100,000 a year, the siren call of business has lured many to specialize in this more lucrative line. Budd Analysis, Incorporated has grown at a rate of 15 per cent annually since 1971. Ninety-five per cent of the work is for insurance agencies and clients, of which there are over 150, including Manufacturers Life, State Farm and Northwestern Mutual Life.
HuVista Vice-President Iris Holmes, 37, confirms a marked growth of interest by business since her company opened in 1974. She says it’s because her 140 clients can favorably compare the handwriting reports with their own evaluations. Anderson agrees: “We’ve analysed entire sales teams and the top people inevitably come out with the highest scores. They can see for themselves we’re accurate.”
All analysts—there are an estimated 10,000 individuals practising in North
America—graduate from the International Graphoanalysis Society (IGAS) of Chicago, the only recognized school. The Chicago system was developed by Milton Newhouse Bunker, a Midwest shorthand teacher, who started the society in 1929.
Unfortunately, the inventor of graphoanalysis slowed his science down somewhat by destroying much of his early research because, he said, it was too personal. But studies at universities
in Hawaii, Florida and in Europe dating back to the 1930s, backed by the society’s own research, have built on his original findings. For example, work is now being done by IGAS in co-operation with several U.S. insurance companies to determine how the positive traits of good drivers (dignity, self-control, manual dexterity) and the negative traits of bad ones (temper, vanity, self-consciousness) show up in their writing.
Jim Bolton, 42, general manager of
Mr. Music, an Ontario chain of 11 piano and music stores with 100 employees, uses handwriting analysis to assess his potential salespeople. Bolton also relies on personal opinion, references and credit and work records—but he finds graphoanalysis a useful additional tool. “We haven’t found psychological testing satisfactory,” he says, “Many people know the tests and a lot can depend on the applicant’s mood. Handwriting seems to remain stable.”
Analysts rarely meet the people they assess. In fact, they prefer to evaluate solely on the basis of what’s on the page. They do like to know the sex of the subject and whether the left or right hand was used. “Handwriting is brainwriting,” says Girouard. “You can beat a psychological test but you can’t beat
your writing. It comes directly from your subconscious mind.”
Fear traits, for example, show up in D and T strokes. Big top loops indicate sensitivity to criticism. “Feathered endings,” on the other hand, which trail off into nothing, suggest a lack of decisiveness. “It costs between $10,000 and $18,000 to hire and train a single salesperson,” says Girouard. “There’s a lot of pressure on us to be right.” And also there’s the craft’s reputation, related in many people’s mind to matters occult, which still lingers on. Bell Canada’s employment manager in Ontario Robert Shaver, for example, feels that more needs to be known about graphoanalysis before it can be validated. “Unless they can prove correlation between the writing and the subject’s personality, we’ll stick with the proven psychological tests of the past.”
Not all clients are established businesses. Recently, Jean Caron, 27, a night school student in business at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, asked for an assessment of her sales potential. She sent Anderson and Girouard two pages copied from the Guinness Book of Worid Records plus $25. When her analysis came back, she was amazed. “They suggested I go into print sales, the exact area I was thinking about. It was uncanny.” Anderson and Girouard prefer to say “scientific.” Constance Brissenden
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