Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Isabella. Isabella Wonders, “Why do we all have different handwriting?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Isabella!
Want to try a quick and fun experiment? Ask a few friends or family members to join you in a simple task: write out the first couple of lines of a favorite song or poem. When you're all finished, set the papers in a row and compare them.
Does everyone's handwriting look the same? Or is it easy to distinguish each person's handwriting from the others?
If you and your friends and family members are like most people, then we bet you have several handwriting samples that all look unique. In fact, the handwriting samples might vary remarkably from one person to the next.
So does everyone have different handwriting? Is handwriting like your fingerprints or voice? Not exactly! After all, you're born with a unique voice and fingerprints, but you don't learn how to write until several years later.
Although handwriting hasn't been subjected to scientific study as frequently as fingerprints have, most people do believe that each individual's handwriting is unique. Why is that, though?
To be able to communicate, all letters should look the same, right? In school, when you learn to write, all students are usually shown the same examples of letters. So why doesn't everyone's handwriting look the same then?
If you think about handwriting, you'll quickly realize that it's a complicated task that involves multiple parts of the body at once. Your brain must visualize the letters you want to write. Your nerves must communicate those intentions to the muscles in your hands and arms.
At the same time, your eyes watch the letters as you write them, constantly monitoring their shapes and alerting your brain to corrections that need to be made. As if all that wasn't enough, your handwriting can also be affected by a variety of environmental factors, such as the temperature of the room, your stress level, time constraints, and your overall mood.
When you put all those factors together, it's no surprise that each person's handwriting turns out differently from others. In fact, an individual's handwriting isn't necessarily always the same, since it can vary based upon any of the factors mentioned previously. Even twins have different handwriting!
Some people practice graphology, which is the study and analysis of handwriting. The most common graphology technique, known as graphoanalysis, was developed by Milton Newman Bunker in the early 1900s.
Graphoanalysis involves studying and analyzing the stroke shape of letters. Some graphologists believe that they can determine certain personality and character traits of people based upon their handwriting.
Graphology remains controversial today. Some characterize it as a pseudoscience, since its methods don't always conform to traditional scientific methodologies. Others debate how accurate it is at determining personality traits.
Even though the debate about graphology is not likely to end any time soon, scientists are still studying handwriting, seeking to determine scientifically how unique it is. Their findings may impact, for example, whether or not handwriting can be reliably used as evidence in court proceedings.
For example, scientists at the State University of New York at Buffalo have published a study about handwriting in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. Their study used a computer running handwriting recognition software to analyze 1,500 samples objectively based upon 11 different features. Their study concluded that all 1,500 samples were indeed unique!