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ANALYZING SIGNATURES


The signature of an individual reveals only what the writer wants people to see. The text, or body of the writing, reveals the basic personality of the individual. If we were to measure the congruence of signature and text on a 10 point rating scale, with higher numbers representing higher congruence, the scores for Congruent Signature would rarely exceed a score of 8, and only occasionally would the score drop to 5 or below. Psychologically, if the signature is congruent to the writing (i.e., having a score from 8 to 10), the person wants to be seen by others as they really are (i.e., "What you see is what you get"), indicating that the individual performs, in most instances, in ways which are consistent with their basic personality. If the score drops to 5 or below, in most cases, the writer projects a public personality which is significantly different from their private personality.

 

Many factors are taken into consideration when signatures are compared with text: the size and shape of the capital letters, middle zone size, upper zone extension height and lower zone length, upslant above the baseline, downslant in the middle zone and lower zone, formation of all letters, narrowness and fullness of the various letters, spacing between letters, ending strokes and beginning strokes of words, underscoring, speed, pressure, and any other variation that may be apparent. In Questioned Document work, most of which has to do with a signature, each of these items is very meaningful. The variation of one or more indicators may be the deciding element in determining whether two or more documents were written or signed by the same person.

 

One of the many reasons that signature analysis should not serve as the basis for analyzing a total personality is that most people sign their names a great deal faster than the rest of their writing. Perhaps familiarity increases speed, since the signature is the most frequently produced form of written communication. The increased speed of signature production may also be based on simple necessity, as many signatures are produced under time-pressured conditions (e.g., business transactions). In any event, from a graphological standpoint, the signature must not be analyzed without considering the likelihood that it was written a great deal faster than the body of the writing. Otherwise, the faulty conclusion may be reached that the writer does everything very rapidly, moving and thinking quickly, when, in fact, this may not be the case.

 

Generally, if the person writes more slowly when they sign their name then when they write, it is because they really want to make an impression that their public personality is different than their private personality (e.g., that they are more meticulous, controlled, or clear and forthright in their communication than they really are). However, a writer who normally writes fast will also be aware that their writing is often illegible, so they may write their name in a slow, deliberate manner to be assured that the reader will know who wrote the letter.

 

One of the many outstanding differences we find is that people will sign their name with much more rightward slant than their basic writing. While this may be due, in large part, to the speed of their writing, it also may indicate that they are projecting more emotional expressiveness than they actually possess. People with left-slanted writing who sign their names with a clear right slant are trying to project the false impression that they are much more emotionally expressive than they actually are. In the opposite case, where the person's signature is straight up and down or left-slanted, while their text is right-slanted, the writer is a person who is very expressive emotionally but wants to convey poise and dignity to the public.

 

Studying a signature, particularly one which consists of a first and last name, or the first name, middle initial and last name, can help us to understand how the person wants to be seen. Some people write the capital letter of their first name much larger than the capital letter of their last name. This may indicate that they are more interested in themselves as unique individuals rather than deriving most of their self-worth from their family background or tradition. When a person comes from a well-known or well-respected family, they may write their last name larger than their first name, if their sense of self-worth is based on identification with their family's heritage and/or position.

 

If either the first name or the last name is scribbled in such a way that it is hard to read, you can almost be sure that for one reason or another the individual would like to avoid using that name. Many people have the idea that the more complicated or illegible their signature is, the less apt it is to be forged. However, this is not necessarily true. If the signature is very illegible, it is not too hard to copy. The average person looking at it might figure that since the signature is unreadable, it must belong to the individual who claimed it was theirs.

 

Many graphologists have found that when a person signs their name and connects the initials or their first and last names, it is a sign of potential executive ability. In many cases, the person likes to see the total job done; that is, they are not as concerned about how the job is done as long as it is done right and completely. You might also find that their downstrokes do not fade out, suggesting that once they start something, they will follow through until it is completed.

 

Many people underline their name for the simple reason that they have no lower loops in their name. By underlining it, they have an opportunity to show their interest in the lower zone, or the material part of life. They may also like to show others what they are capable of doing (see Benjamin Franklin and Norman Lear). Some people underline their name three or four times, as if they were putting themselves on a pedestal (see Edgar Allen Poe and John Hancock ). Typically, these underlinings are longest where they are closest to the name and they become smaller as they go down. This may be an indication of egotism.

 

Some people will form narrow upper loops in their first name and wider upper loops in their last name. The narrow upper loops in their first name indicate that they will keep their personal thoughts to themselves, while the wider upper loops in their last name show that they are willing to share their thoughts about their business or their family. Other writers put a period at the end of their name. This was done quite frequently in the past and it was an indication of finality (e.g.,"This is all I am going to say" or "I am quite definite about what I have said").

 

Another writing feature to take into consideration is the placement of the signature at the end of a handwritten note. If they signed it over to the left, they are not anxious to communicate with the person to whom they are writing. If their signature is in the middle, they are holding their ground and saying, "This is what I have to say and I said it. Please read it. I am waiting for your comments." If their signature is over to the right, they will be friendly, wanting to get closer to the individual to whom they are writing. They may also be future-oriented.

 

These interpretations must be tempered, however, by the fact that documents produced by typewriters and word processing software programs are nearly always signed on the left side of the paper. This mechanical artifact may, in fact, be such a determining factor in signature positioning that accurate analysis is rarely feasible. To enhance genuineness, a signature should be analyzed when it is placed at the end of a sample of writing, rather than at the beginning. The more a person writes, the more they relax their defenses and produce spontaneous writing. Signatures placed at the beginning of a writing specimen are generally quite different from, and less genuine than, signatures placed at the end.

 

An individual with large, embellished text and a small, simple signature is one who tries to project a form of shyness, or pulling away from the world, while their underlying personality is much more outgoing and flamboyant. Some writers write their name with the last letter way out to the right, thereby acting as a protective stroke, holding people at arms length. Others drop the last part of their last name, which usually indicates fatigue, unhappiness or illness.

 

To illustrate the many potential differences between signature and text in a group setting, you might give each person a piece of blank paper, have them fold it in half, write two or three lines on the top half and sign their name on the bottom half. After cutting the papers in half and mixing them up, see how many people can match the top and bottom halves. Or, you could simply have each member of the group write two or three lines and then sign their names on a piece of paper or a blackboard. In either case, many people will be surprised to discover how different their signatures look from the rest of their writing.

 

As these variations between signature and text are identified and interpreted, you will be able to determine many of the differences between the way the person wants to be seen by others and the way he or she really is. Of course, the Signature Analyst© program is limited to analyses of signatures alone, so you will have to use the Handwriting Analyst program to compare a writer's signature and text .

 

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Copyright © 1986, 2011 Garth Michaels, Marilyn Maze, and Dorothy Hodos