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Handwriting analysis — or graphology — is used in two separate applications. Some graphologists use handwriting to make predictions about personality or likelihood of certain behaviors. In other cases, it may be used in the legal system to verify that a will is not forged, or to identify handwriting samples that have come from the the same source.
Graphologists suggest that, since the process of handwriting is connected to the central nervous system, the way in which a person writes may indicate certain personality types and traits. Others dismiss this analysis for personality profiling as a pseudoscience. Still, many businesses employ graphologists to evaluate the handwriting of perspective employees. This is particularly common in Europe, but American employers use it as well as one of the tools to select the best candidate for a job. Handwriting analysis of people with writing disabilities is not considered a valuable pursuit, since there is clear dysfunction between the body and the brain’s ability to produce appropriate writing, and some critics argue that requiring it of a job applicant is tantamount to unlawful discrimination.
In the criminal justice system, forensic graphologists may examine handwriting to make statements regarding the likely personality of a subject. If it is used, both sides of a case will often employ a handwriting expert to counter the other's testimony. Forensic graphologists used to have more ability to testify in the US, but changes in laws in 2001 now allow a judge the discretion to disallow testimony when he or she feels that statements cannot be scientifically verified.
The legal system also relies on graphology to identify writing coming from the same source. In this way, an incriminating written piece of evidence may be compared with writing of a suspect, which might suggest his proximity or involvement in a crime. Handwriting analysis may also be used to verify the signature on a will or to show that the appropriate person may not have written legal documents.
There is no certification in the US for graphologists, although there are several colleges where a person can train specifically in the psychological evaluation of handwriting. None of these accredited universities are in the US, however; two are in Italy, and there is also a university where one can earn a bachelor's degree in the field in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In the US, the principal means of the learning the trade is through correspondence schools. As a result, many people suggest that handwriting analysis is not really a legitimate science, especially since there are so few universities that offer it as such.