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by Nigel Bradley

Senior Lecturer in Marketing, University of Westminster





The social image and occupational status of the graphologist are investigated by examining published data. Three occupational groups are cited to show that image building is complex. These groups are detectives, psychologists and graphoanalysts. Such examples illustrate how status can be modified by unexpected people (e.g. writers of fiction and politicians). They also show that the occupation itself can help to shape reputation. There are obstacles to measuring image in graphology, but an attempt is made to identify countries where graphology is likely to be most well known. The calculation is based on the assumption that the level of awareness is related to the number of practitioners operating in a given country. Important countries are identified as Switzerland, France, Israel, Italy and the Netherlands. It is concluded that the image of the graphologist is fragmented and inconsistent. Part of the population is unaware of its nature or its existence. When it is known it is associated with such diverse groups as psychologists, questioned document examiners and  "occult" practitioners. These facts do not imply that graphology has a good image.  This implication should be a major concern to the graphological community.  Without a good image, clients will be hard to find and new students will also think carefully before committing themselves to a training programme. In this situation a major image-building exercise is necessary.


Cite as:

Bradley N (2000) Graphologists: Social Image and Occupational Status . Paper presented to Bologna 2000 International Graphology Congress. Available at


Questa pagina è anche in italiano Ce site est aussi en francais





The image of occupational groups has been the subject of numerous research studies.  This has included diverse groups such as Women Managers (Liff et al 1996); Librarians (Freeman 1997);  Accountants (Siegel et al 1997;  Yavas et al 1996) and even Private Investigators (Gill & Hart 1997).  Several researchers have also examined the image of the occupation of the graphologist.   Studies have adopted different methodologies to arrive at a description of the particular occupation.   There have been attempts to review an occupation's portrayal in popular media (books, television etc.).  Low numbers of qualitative interviews have also been used, as have high numbers of quantitative interviews using structured questionnaires.


This paper is an attempt to depict the social image and the occupational status of the graphologist.  This has been done by investigating any recent evidence available.   Such evidence has been drawn from surveys, published observations, discussion with protagonists in this field, and some speculation.





Image and reputation are important.  It has been argued that a recognisable image and a favourable reputation are linked to success.   This may be external, that is, related to the market place; or it may be internal, related to the act of supplying services to that market place.   For example, a company may be successful because it has a good image and consequently customers decide to buy its products.   Several authors have explored the external effects of image (see Gray & Balmer 1998).


An example of success which is related to the internal aspects of supplying a service, is explained simply by employees who are motivated.  This motivation and commitment may, in part, be related to the reputation of their company:  we are proud to work for an organisation with a good name.   The motivational aspect of "Organisational Identification" has also been explored widely by researchers.  (For example see Siegel & Sisaye 1997).


Although image and reputation are important, it is not easy to define precisely what they are.  Grady et al. (1996) discussed definition at length, they said that it is "ill defined" and "is sometimes shadowy, messy, indeterminate, vague, fragmentary, porous, kinaesthetic, visual, literary, verbal or non-verbal".


Nevertheless, marketing researchers have refined their techniques in order to measure image.  One research institute (Harris 2000) has even created the "Reputation Quotient", or R.Q.  to calibrate attitudes to corporations. The Dictionary of Market Research gives this definition for Image:  "People's perceptions or impressions of a product, service, company, person etc., however these may have been formed, and however much they may reflect reality.   Image research sets out to discover perceived strengths and weaknesses, relative to the images of competitors or of an ideal, which may then be exploited or repaired as appropriate".  (Talmage 1988)


The concept of "image" is important to the graphologist.  If the image of graphology is good, it follows that:


1.       Customers will employ graphologists or use graphology.

2.       Graphologists are likely to perform better.

3.       New students will be attracted.


Conversely, if the image of graphology is poor, graphologists will have greater difficulty in finding clients or new students and may find little satisfaction in their involvement with graphology.



The Determinants of Image


There are many reasons why an image is created.   It is interesting to look at three cases: Detectives, Psychologists in Germany and Graphoanalysts in the USA.   If we look to the investigative field, there is a widespread fascination held for the work of the detective.         This is certainly not related to the number of detectives;  in Britain in 2000 for example, there were just 750 members of the professional associations (McDermid 2000:4).   There may be evidence to suggest that this high awareness, curiosity and perhaps admiration is rooted in popular fiction which has been made available to the public in books and television.   Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Inspector Poirot, Morse and Inspector Frost are just a few well-known names in Britain.  (These aspects were investigated at length by Gill and Hart in 1997.)


Psychologists in Germany are another interesting occupation when exploring how image is created.  Geuter (1992) explains that German psychology rapidly grew as a profession between 1935 and 1941.  The expertise of psychology was sought in the very large programme to select military personnel.   The author writes "Although the Wehrmacht's demand for psychological services dropped along with the fortunes of the Nazi regime, the institutional and professional base that psychology had firmly carved for itself was here to stay, and academic psychology continued to train "diploma psychologists" for the duration of the war and into the post-war era."  (taken from the dustcover introduction).  This "professionalization" of psychology was not due to large numbers; in 1940 Geuter estimates that around 700 psychologists were employed in Germany.


In 1929 Milton Bunker established IGAS, the International Graphoanalysis Society.  It has always been based in Chicago, USA.   From a marketing viewpoint Bunker deserves great attention, he was an expert in salesmanship and public relations.   He deliberately tried to create an image for his method of handwriting analysis, which he called Graphoanalysis.   Indeed, he did this to differentiate it from graphology.   This is explained by President Ferrara in a 1967 letter to prospective students


"In 1910, his attention was called to graphology, a popular method of handwriting analysis in his day.   He quickly discovered that graphology was a hit-or-miss system - in fact not a system at all but more a kind of parlour game."   Ferrara's letter attributes American recognition of handwriting analysis to Bunker:  "The "breakthrough" which has finally resulted in a scientific and professional status for Graphoanalysis was due entirely to the untiring research of M.N.Bunker, one of the authentic geniuses of our age".


Since 1929 IGAS has shown itself to be a strong organisation.  Internal incentives helped to reach and maintain its level of awareness.   The monthly newsletter has consistently provided feedback on the activity of members with individual names, photographs, and achievements.   Each regional branch (chapter) has always been encouraged to recruit new members; to participate in research, to persuade members to teach and enrol newcomers;  incentives have been used to reward each radio or TV appearance and similarly public lectures to large numbers.   If the words "Graphoanalysis" or "Graphoanalyst" appeared in any newspaper or magazine, again there was a reward, albeit in the form of praise.


Midge James (1967) attempted to describe IGAS against six criteria relating to professionalism.   These were 1) Education, 2) Self-education, 3) Technical Standards, 4) Research and Development, 5) Ethics, 6) Discipline.   She concludes by saying, "By these six standards, then, Graphoanalysis can truly be judged a profession;  and there are many signs that the science is on the road toward universal professional acceptance".


Whether Graphoanalysis enjoys a scientific and professional status today is a matter of debate.   What cannot be disputed is the fact that the IGAS organisation has been responsible for training thousands of people since 1929.   The January 2000 issue of the Journal of Graphoanalysis speaks in terms of "56,000 graduates and students".


From these three examples, it can be seen that an image is built as a result of many factors.  Simplistically we can say that detectives owe much to writers of fiction, psychologists owe much to politicians, and IGAS shows that graphologists are perfectly capable of being influential in building their own reputation.



Methodological Discussion


The major problem with image is one of measurement.  How can we ensure that our research creates an accurate description of image when the concept of image is a nebulous, "ill-defined" mass?  If we repeated our research, can we ensure that the same thing is measured?



Philip Kotler is a well-known author of literature on marketing and it is in his books that we find instructions on how to measure image.  His first step is to measure the target audience's knowledge of the object using a familiarity scale, for example:


Never Heard of

Heard of only

Know a Little Bit

Know a Fair Amount

Know very well.


The second step is to administer a favourability scale to respondents who are familiar with the object.  This scale is as follows:-


Very unfavourable

Somewhat unfavourable


Somewhat favourable

Very favourable


The procedure continues by identifying different aspects used by people when considering the object.

For the moment let us consider the first two steps - familiarity and favourability.  If these were to be applied to graphology we would need to select a relevant target audience.    Graphology services affect many groups which include audiences shown in Table 1.   In some cases the groups may pay for graphological analyses, in other cases they may be the subject of such analyses. 



Table 1            Target Audiences for Graphologists



Relationship to graphology


General public






Legal Profession


Personnel Managers

Potential users

Potential users in personnel management

Potential subjects of analyses

Potential users and opponents

Produce articles/TV or Radio programmes

Potential users

Potential users of judicial graphology

Potential users

Potential users in human resource management




Graphology Image Studies Available


Several researchers have studied the image of graphologists.   An ambitious investigation was published in a supplement to the Italian specialist graphology journal "Attualità Grafologica".   In this publication (1994), Battolla obtained 519 responses to a study in Italy; Boille wrote of her study in France involving 114 responses; Da Motta's study in Brazil involved 20 responses.  Other studies have also been carried out, such as one conducted by e-mail with 104 subjects (Bradley 1999).  A research study carried out in 1993, questioned 1,523 individuals to look at the public image of psychologists in Spanish society (Diaz 1995).   This revealed that over a third of respondents (36%) felt that knowledge of graphology was needed to work as a psychologist, whereas 19% did not know if this was necessary.  Indeed, the association with psychology appears to be strong elsewhere, and has been examined several times by Ceccarelli (1979, 1980, 1994, 1998).


Such image studies have highlighted three other aspects:  non-awareness, an association with occult subjects and an association with Questioned Document Examination. Non-awareness is evident when respondents are simply not aware of graphology.  In the aforementioned 'Kotler' image measurement scale respondents have never heard of graphology, or have only heard the name or know a little bit.  Familiarity is therefore low.  Where respondents are able to speak of graphology, there is sometimes an association with astrology, palm-reading, tea-leaf reading etc., subjects which have been called "occult" subjects.  On Kotler's favourability scale, this tends to push graphology towards ratings that are 'very unfavourable', 'somewhat unfavourable' or indifference'. There is also an association with Questioned Document Examination whereby documents are examined, to ascertain the original author's identify or to gather other evidence for civil or criminal investigation.


From the studies available, supported with anecdotal evidence, there is reason to suggest that graphology has a fragmented and inconsistent image.  Some people know nothing about it, others place it with psychology, others place it with the occult and others associate it with Questioned Document Examination.   There also appear to be differences in perception among different audiences.  So, for example, psychologists are opposed to it, whereas the general public are more enthusiastic.



An International Comparison


To determine a world image for the graphologist would of course be an extremely time consuming and costly exercise.  It would mean determining the numbers and locations of each audience for each country; designing a research tool, translating it into different languages, sampling the groups appropriately, analysing the results.  Once the results are available, action could then be taken to "modify" the image.  The entire measurement process would need to be repeated to discover whether a change had in fact occurred.


It would be a gigantic task to create such an image study.  However as a first step a simple comparison of numbers has been made in the Table 2 below.   The idea was to compare the "standing" of graphologists in different countries, to identify ones with the "greatest density" of graphologists.  The measure of 'Active Population' has been chosen rather than land surface or general population.


Several methodological points should be noted.  To determine the number of graphologists in each country is not easy:   various sources were used (see footnotes), including Yellow Page listings, association membership numbers, training results etc.  Although a wide definition for graphologist has been used, data was not collected for other countries, for example USA, Canada and Brazil are not present.   'Expert opinion' was sought to confirm the estimated numbers of graphologists.  The active population numbers are taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica 2000.  Despite any disagreement with the accuracy of Table 2, it provides a focus for discussion.








Table 2.           'Density' of graphologists in 16 countries



Estimated Number of Graphologists


Active Population (000)

1.       Switzerland




2.       France




3.       Israel




4.       Italy




5.       Netherlands




6.       Hungary




7.       Spain




8.       Belgium




9.       Austria




10.   Denmark




11.   Germany




12.   Norway




13.   UK




14.   Sweden




15.   South Africa




16.   Japan





Interpreting this table is not easy.  From an image-building viewpoint, we might surmise that there will be a high level of familiarity with the term 'graphology' in the top five countries - particularly Switzerland.   Conversely, we would expect graphology to be less well known in Japan, South Africa, Sweden, UK and Norway.   Future research could usefully focus on Switzerland, France, Israel, Italy and the Netherlands.  These are countries where the numbers of graphologists are likely to have made their mark in the workplace.





To conclude, it must be said that the image of the graphologist is fragmented and inconsistent.  It is associated with diverse groups such as psychologists,  questioned document examiners, astrologers etc. Furthermore, there is a proportion of the population who are unaware of its nature or its existence.  This lack of awareness may be related to the number of practitioners operating in a given country.


Whilst not conclusive, these facts do not imply that graphology has a good image.  This implication should be a major concern to the graphological community.  Without a good image, clients will be hard to find and new students will also think carefully before committing themselves to a training programme. 


In this situation a major image-building exercise is necessary. It is possible to create an image for any product or service - this is clear from modern marketing theory and practice. The case of IGAS also shows that image change is possible in the field of handwriting analysis. Indeed a close study of the methods used by IGAS may provide ideas for the marketing of graphology in coming years.

References and Notes


BATTOLLA, R. (1994).  Risultati della ricerca realizzata in Italia.  Attualità Grafologica, No.51. 23-26.


BOILLE, N. (1994). Risultati della ricerca realizzata in Francia.  Attualità Grafologica, No.51, 27-33.


BRADLEY, N.R. (1999). Graphology's Image. In: Coleman, A. (ed). Oxford 1999 Symposium Papers. Available at http://www.leylines.com/oxpres.htm


BRADLEY, N.R. (1999). Graphology Digest Factbook. NRB Chesterfield.


BYERS, M.L. (1996).  Career Choice and Satisfaction in the Legal Profession.   Career Planning and Adult Development Journal.  Spring 12(1).  Available at http://profdev.findlaw.com//column/article1.htm.


CECCARELLI, G. (1979).  Indagine su alcuni aspetti del rapporto fra grafologia e psicologia Scrittura, 29, 21-33.


CECCARELLI, G. (1980).   Informazione e opinioni sulla grafologia nei non grafologi. Scrittura, 33, 18-34.


CECCARELLI, G. (1994). L'Immagine della grafologia.  Attualità Grafologica, No.51, 17-22


CECCARELLI, G. (1994).  In  Scienze Umane & Grafologia, No.3, 103-137.


CECCARELLI, G. (ed) (1998).   Psicologia e Grafologia:  Quale Rapporto?  Franco Angeli, Milano.


DA MOTTA, H.L.A. (1994).  Risultati della ricerca realizzata in Brasile.  Attualità Grafologica, No.51, 34-35.


DIAZ, R. (1995).  Psychologists in Spanish Society:  Analyses of their Public Image.  Available at http://www.ucm.es/info/Psyap/hispania/article.htm.


FANCY, J. (1989).  The Status and Future of Scientific Graphology.  Journal of the American Society of Professional Graphologists, Vol.1, Fall, 9-17.


FREEMAN, M. (1997).  Is Librarianship in the UK a true profession, a semi-profession or a mere occupation.  New Library World, Vol.98, No.1133, 65-69.


GEUTER, U. (1992).   The Professionalization of Psychology in Nazi Germany.  Cambridge University Press.


GILL, M. & HART, J. (1997).   Private Investigators in Britain and America.   Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategy and Management, Vol.20, No.4, 631-640.


GRADY, N.B., FISHER DL & FRASER BJ (1996) Images of School through metaphor development and validation of a questionnaire. Journal of Educational Administration 34(2) pp41-53


GRAY, E.R. & BALMER, J.M.T. (1998).  Managing Corporate Image and Corporate Reputation.  Long Range Planning,  31(5) 695-702.


GULLAN-WHUR, M. (1988).  The Status of Graphology as a Study.  The Graphologist, 6(3), 19-28.


HARRIS INTERACTIVE (2000).   What is Reputation Quotient?  Available at http://www.harrisinteractive.com


JAMES, M. (1967).  How Professional Are We?  The Journal of Graphoanalysis, November 3-4


KOTLER, P. et al. (1999).  Principles of Marketing. 2nd European Edition. Prentice Hall Europe.


LIFF, S., WORRALL, L. and COOPER, C.L. (1997).  Attitudes to Women in Management:  an analysis of West Midlands businesses.  Personnel Review, Vol.26, No.3, 152-173.


McDERMID, V. (2000).  Watching the Private Detectives.   The Sunday Times News Review 27 February, page 4.


MULLINS, L.J. (1999). Management and Organisational Behaviour.  Pitman Publishing.


PRICE, A. (1997). Human Resource Management in a Business Context. International Thomson Business Press.


ROWLAND, D. (1999).  Negligence, Professional Competence and Computer Systems.  The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (2).  Available at http://www.law.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/99-2/rowland.htm.


SIEGEL, P.H. & SISAYE, S. (1997). An analysis of the difference between organization, identification and professional commitment: a study of Certified Public Accountants. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 18/3, 149-165.


TALMAGE, P.A. (1988).  Dictionary of Market Research.   Market Research Society, London.


YAVAS, Ugur & ARSAN, Noyan. (1996).  Image of Auditing as a field of study and a career among college students.  Managerial Auditing Journal, 11/5, 41-44.





1.       Yellow Page listings for most world countries are available on the internet http://www.teldir.com.    The analysis used entries under the titles:  graphologues; grafologi & skriftidentifikation; graphology, graphologists, handwriting analysis, graphologie et consultations, handwriting analysts and experts, handwriting experts, graphologie, Handschriftendeutung, grafologo, grafologia.


2.       The Graphology Digest Factbook - see Bradley (1999) - lists the numbers of graphologists who are members of organisations offering training or other graphological services (see pp.234-243).  This formed a point of reference in creating Table 2.


3.       Thanks to Doris Gauthier and Anna Dondero for  translation assistance.


4.       This paper was prepared for the International Graphology Conference, Bologna, Italy, 9 September 2000.    Copyright 2000 Nigel Bradley


Abstract (en francais)


L'image sociale et le statut professionnel du graphologue sont étudiés en regard des données déjà publiées. Trois groupes professionnels sont désignés pour démontrer que le développement de l'image est un phénomène complexe. Ces groupes sont les détectives privés, les psychologues et les graphoanalistes. Ces exemples illustrent bien comment le statut peut être modifié par des gens inattendus (e.g. des écrivains de fiction et des politiciens). Ils montrent également que la profession elle-même peut participer à l'amélioration de sa propre image. Il y a toutefois des obstacles pour mesurer l'image de la graphologie mais un essai a été fait pour tenter d'identifier les pays où cette profession est probablement la mieux connue. Le calcul est fondé sur l'assomption que le niveau de connaissance est relié au nombre de praticiens donnés dans un pays. Les pays les mieux représentés proportionnellement sont la Suisse, la France, Israël, l'Italie et la Hollande. On en est venu à la conclusion que l'image du graphologue est fragmentaire et inconsistante. Une bonne partie de la population n'est pas au courant de la nature du produit ou même de son existence. Quand il est connu, il est associé à des groupes aussi divers que les psychologues, les spécialistes en documents et les praticiens des "sciences occultes". Ces faits n'impliquent pas que la graphologie a une image positive. Et ces résultats devraient être un motif de préoccupation majeure pour la communauté graphologique. Sans une image positive, les clients seront difficiles à recruter et les nouveaux étudiants y penseront à deux fois avant de s'engager dans un programme de formation. Compte tenu de cette situation, un exercice important de développement d'image est nécessaire.



Abstract (in italiano)


L'immagine sociale e la collocazione professionale del grafologo sono studiate esaminando dati già pubblicati. Tre gruppi professionali sono citati per mostrare che la costruzione dell'immagine è cosa complessa. Questi gruppi sono i detective, gli psicologi e i grafoanalisti. Tali esempi mostrano come la collocazione possa essere modificata da persone inaspettate (ad es. gli scrittori di narrativa e i politici). Mostrano ugualmente che la professione stessa può aiutare a migliorare la reputazione. Ci sono degli ostacoli a misurare l'immagine in grafologia, ma è stato fatto un tentativo per identificare i Paesi dove la grafologia è probabilmente meglio conosciuta. Il calcolo è basato sul presupposto che il livello di conoscenza sia  in correlazione col numero di persone che la

esercitano in un Paese. I Paesi meglio rappresentati sono la Svizzera, la Francia, Israele, l'Italia e l'Olanda. Si è giunti alla conclusione che l'immagine del grafologo è frammentata ed inconsistente. Una buona parte della popolazione non è al corrente della sua natura o addirittura della sua  esistenza. Quando è conosciuto, è associato a gruppi così  dissimili come psicologi, esaminatori di documenti  e praticanti dell'occulto. Questi fatti non implicano che il grafologo abbia una buona immagine. E questi risultati dovrebbero essere un motivo di preoccupazione  maggiore per la comunità grafologica. Senza una buona immagine, sarà difficile trovare clienti ed i potenziali  studenti ci penseranno bene prima di impegnarsi in un programma di formazione. In questa situazione è necessario un maggiore sforzo di costruzione dell'immagine.


  italiano - espagnol - francais  - University of Westminster - Last modified  10 Sept 2004. Corrections to bradlen@wmin.ac.uk