While graphology is considered a pseudo-science, this study of people's handwriting has produced significant results in the field of criminal justice, especially. There are three approaches to graphology: the holistic, the integrative, and the symbolic:
- Holistic - This approach examines form, movement, and space as determiners of a profile.
- Integrative - This approach contends that specific stroke structures of cursive writing relate to personality traits. Most systems under this study use a cluster of stroke formations to determine the personality traits.
- Symbolic - In this approach, symbols are sought in the handwriting. They can be either
(a) Major Symbolism, in which meaning is ascribed to the stroke as it relates to the page [i.e. large, sweeping, slanted, etc.]
(b) Minor Symbolism, in which meaning is ascribed to the picture that the stroke draws.
Each approach has, in its turn, spawned several different systems that use various approaches. Thus, there is no definitive approach, although some astounding results have occurred in this field under the examination by an experienced graphologist. In some cases, these experts have been able to identify suicidal tendencies, deceitful tendencies, and many other character traits.
The other answers to this question are excellent sources of information on graphology, which, I believe, has been used to determine whether or not a person is lying, because forgery is a form of lying.
I have often wondered if graphology in its classic sense is truly authoritative. There are people who can produce many styles of handwriting, such as the calligraphy mentioned in the question. If a person is artistic and able to drastically alter the appearance of written characters from one sample to another, is it really possible to obtain an accurate picture of the identity and/or personality of the writer?
I tend to think that WHAT has been written can be more telling than HOW something has been written. For example, the famous letters to the police from Jack the Ripper were regarded by most experts as disingenuous, because even though the writer attempted to portray himself as a common man, the obvious forced nature of his literary constructs clearly indicated that the writer was a person of higher education than that of the purported letter-writer (the Ripper) and of higher social standing.
I think that giorgiana's response is very interesting. Using the same basic approach as a polygraph (lie detector) machine, studying stress points, spacing, rhythm, etc. seems more on the right track toward genuine discovery, especially concerning situations when life or death may be determined upon a writing test's analysis. It seems that, just as it would be difficult for a person to try to disguise his handwriting in an attempt to "be" someone else, it would also be very difficult, especially because of most people's ignorance of the kind of analytical techniques giorgiana mentions, for someone to disguise his state of mind at the time of the alleged forgery.
Israeli researchers at the University of Haifa have developed a computerized system that detects and analyzes writing untruths. The test is to write, with an electronic pen, two texts: one that tells real events and another fiction. A program then analyzes the differences of graphology, speed and rhythm and also the pressure of pen on paper to determine if the text is true or false.
The evidence shows,from the scientific point of view, if the person lies or tells the truth. In case of lying, for example, writing is less automatic, and the pressure of pen on paper is higher.
According to Gil Luria and Sara Roseblum, teachers, coordinators of the project, the new system could serve as a supplement to traditional lies detectors, with the advantage of providing objective results, exerting less psychological pressure on weaker respondents.
There is a field of study called graphology that attempts to determine personality traits of people based on their handwriting. This field of study is not a perfect science, still it does have some validity, and many people use it for determining characteristics of persons they deal with. For example many companies use graphology to determine personality traits of candidates for recruitment. It use is widespread in countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. It is also taught as a subject in universities. For example, New School for Social Research in New York city teaches Graphology as an diagnostic aid.
The term graphology also refers to study of handwriting to detect forgery. However, graphology or handwriting analysis as generally practices is not used for detecting lies.
I am not sure if finding difference in writing alternate texts under laboratories condition using sophisticated instrument to detect differences such as the pressure, speed and rhythm of writing at the time of writing, qualifies as graphology. But it appears quite likely that differences like these can be used to detect lies to some extent, just as analysis of speech pattern can be used to detect lies.