As far back as Aristotle, handwriting has been noted to reflect the personality characteristics of people. Alfred Binet, a psychologist who created intelligence tests, also stated that handwriting styles indicated certain character traits.
Handwriting analysis is used to determine authorship, i.e. who wrote the document or signature. This is helpful in crimes such as forgery, or to determine authenticity of a suicide note. The forensic psychologist also analyzes handwriting as part of their assessment of the individual. Certain handwriting styles are correlated with different mental disorders. Therefore, forensic psychologists use handwriting to profile individuals who have not yet been apprehended. Forensic psychologists also use handwriting and drawings to assess or diagnose victims and/or perpetrators of crimes
Handwriting is not a perfect science per se but helps establish a pattern in the individual. A signature that has thick heavy lines could indicate anger. If a signature is very small in proportion to the other writing, it could indicate insecurity. These are only general examples, however, and true handwriting analysis, also known as graphology, has precise analytic descriptions of each individual letter (cursive or print). It also takes into account the spacing and justification of documents and letters, i.e. does the individual write only on the top half of the paper, is there a disproportionately large indent on either side of the paragraph, etc. Handwriting analysis is actually quite complex.
A person's profile can consist of personality traits, behaviors, and motives behind their behaviors. In forensic psychology, profiling is used to help apprehend criminals by listing possible personality traits and behaviors that were correlated with previously apprehended perpetrators. For example, if it is known that the perpetrator is addicted to heroin, the investigators might look for the suspect in areas of the city known as hang-outs for heroin users. They may also be expecting the perpetrator to attempt a robbery so he or she can get more heroin. This information helps the investigators know where to look and also what to expect when they find the individual. If the police expect to find a perpetrator who is "high" then they will take appropriate precautions.
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