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Home arrow Psychology arrow The Wiley Blackwell handbook of the psychology of recruitment, selection and employee retention


This is a person’s personal history - where they were born and educated, their birth family and present family, and their current address. Some information is thought to be very important: the parents’ social class; whether the applicant comes from a minority race or religious group; how many siblings they have and their place in the birth order; their schooling and how academically successful they were. This is called biodata. It aims to determine, empirically, the biographical markers of success in particular jobs. Its limitations will be discussed later.

Invalid Methods

Many studies have demonstrated that certain selection methods clearly lack validity. Ben- Shaktar, Bar-Hellel, Bilu, Ben-Abba, and Flug (1986) conducted a major and well-controlled study, and concluded that if a correspondence were to be empirically found between graphological features and such traits, it would be a major theoretical challenge to account for it. Further, they argued that, unless the graphologist makes a firm commitment to the nature of the correspondence between handwriting and personality, one can find ad hoc corroboration for any claim. They also note that handwriting is paradoxically not a robust and stable form of expressive behaviour. It may be extremely sensitive to extraneous influences that have nothing to do with personality (e.g., whether the script is copied or not, or the paper is lined or not, the condition under which the writing takes place, who reads the script).

In another review, Neter and Ben-Shaktar (1989) asked 63 graphologists and 51 nongraphologists to rate 1,223 scripts. They found that psychologists with no knowledge of graphology outperformed the graphologists on all dimensions, and they suggested that the limited validity of handwriting analysis is usually based on the script’s content rather than its style.

King and Koehler (2002) demonstrated that an illusory correlation phenomenon may be a contribution to the persistence of graphology’s use to detect personality traits. They found that a semantic association between the words used to describe handwriting features (e.g., bold) and personality traits was the source of the perceived correlation which, in part, ‘may partially account for continued use of graphology despite overwhelming evidence against its predictive validity’ (2000, p. 336).

Dean (1992) examined statistical effect sizes in this literature. Dean also attempted to explain why, if the empirical research literature is almost uniformly negative, it has not shaken graphologists’ or lay people’s faith in this type of analysis. He found over 60 reliability and 140 effect size study results for his analysis. The effect size is defined as the mean correlation (weighted by number of scripts) between personality as predicted from the handwriting by graphologist or others and personality determined by tests or ratings. After looking at 1,519 correlations, Dean concluded that effect sizes are too low to be useful and that non-graphologists are generally as good at handwriting analysis as graphologists. He admitted that there is an effect, but suggests that at least some is due to content, not the handwriting, and that graphology is not valid or reliable enough to be useful.

Dean, Kelly, Saklofske and Furnham (1992) attempted to explain why, if all the evidence suggests that graphology is barely related to any personality variable, clients of graphologists attest to its accuracy. They list 26 reasons why clients are convinced that graphology works, none of which requires that it is true. Interestingly, this may account for some graphologists’ unshakeable beliefin their ‘art’. For various placebo-type reasons clients believe that graphology does work, which increases the graphologists’ belief in their own skill. Hence each reinforces the other, despite the possibility that there is no validity in graphological analysis. Thus people are convinced that handwriting is linked to personality, yet nearly all the evidence suggests this is not true. As Driver, Buckley and Frink (1996, p. 78) concluded:

While a few articles have proposed that graphology is a valid and useful selection technique, the overwhelming results of well-controlled empirical studies have been that the technique has not demonstrated acceptable validity. A review of relevant literature regarding both theory and research indicates that, while the procedure may have an intuitive appeal, graphology should not be used in a selection context.

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