The Handwriting of Liars

Sep 21, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog

( -- Forget about unreliable polygraph lie detectors for identifying liars. A new study claims the best way to find out if someone is a liar is to look at their handwriting, rather than analyzing their word choice, eye movements and body language.

The study by Gil Luria and Sara Rosenblum from the University of Haifa in Israel, tested 34 volunteers, who were each asked to write two stories using a system called ComPET (Computerized Penmanship Evaluation Tool), which comprises a piece of paper positioned on a computer tablet and a wireless electronic pen with a pressure-sensitive tip. Using the system, the subjects wrote one paragraph about a true memory, and one that was made up.

The researchers analyzed the writing and discovered that in the untrue paragraphs the subjects on average pressed down harder on the paper and made significantly longer strokes and taller letters than in the true paragraphs. The differences were not visible to the eye, but were detectable by . There were no differences in writing speed.

The scientists suggest that handwriting changes because the brain is forced to work harder since it is inventing information, and this interferes with normal writing.

People hesitate when they lie, Dr Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire told the Daily Mail, and some companies use this knowledge to check how long people take to tick boxes in online surveys. The new research is promising, he said, but needs larger scale testing.

The study was published in the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal. Research is in its early stages but ComPET could one day find practical application in testing the truthfulness of handwritten insurance claims or loan applications, or in handwriting tests during job interviews. Handwriting analyses could also be combined with lie detectors to identify whether or not people were lying.

More information: Comparing the handwriting behaviours of true and false writing with computerized measures, Applied Cognitive Psychology, DOI: 10.1002/acp.1621

© 2009

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User comments : 17

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Sep 21, 2009
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4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 21, 2009
Writing an invented story by request is not lying.
3 / 5 (2) Sep 21, 2009
Moreover, me and many other people use handwriting only when their signature is needed, these days.
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 21, 2009
Know, writing a made-up story on request is not a lie---writing a made-up story about someone in a real life situation like saying they did better at work than someone else for example is discriminatory. This tool would be very useful in discrimination cases and makes me think the two above me are guilty of such behavior?
5 / 5 (5) Sep 21, 2009
Well, now that I know this, I will be careful not to press too hard, and I will watch the size of my letters. NEXT.
5 / 5 (3) Sep 21, 2009
When I filed my taxes by hand, my writing was ALWAYS heavy. I hated doing it and was under tremendous strain.
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 21, 2009
Not the kind of "evidence" that would hold up in court- just the kind of pseudo-knowledge that would be used against you without your knowledge or consent. Couple of examples that leap to mind: on an insurance application, job application, et c.
1.5 / 5 (4) Sep 21, 2009
all of you should definitely study graphology more in depth before dismissing this study so readily. Lying = falsifying data = making stuff up. The transitive property tells us then that lying = making stuff up. So lying and making stuff up (even when requested to do so) is still lying. If your kid lied to you because your spouse told them to, would you not consider it a lie?
Moving on.
Graphology is a comprehensive study that doesn't single out characteristics of handwriting to form an analysis. It is only effective when taken in context with many other analyzable characteristics.
Also, don't think that this technique has never been or never will be used against you. Many employers enlist the help of graphologists in conjunction with psychologists to determine if one candidate might be more well qualified for a certain position than another (especially for high security and highly social positions).
4 / 5 (4) Sep 21, 2009
So lying and making stuff up (even when requested to do so) is still lying. If your kid lied to you because your spouse told them to, would you not consider it a lie?

A lie is a synonym for deliberately misleading somebody. If my kid misleads me by lying to me it's a lie. But if some volunteer writes a made-up story that some researcher asked him for then the researcher is not mislead. The volunteer would have had to write a true story to mislead the researcher.
Sep 21, 2009
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not rated yet Sep 22, 2009
You could wonder though how long handwriting will still be around, making this not really future proof.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 22, 2009
Even if it is true, it is exploitable.
5 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2009
Some years ago a friend of mine applied for a job with a major European firm and they required a handwriting sample. He got the job, but I was enraged for his sake. I would have walked out of the interview. The practice of personality assessment via handwriting analysis should be illegal. What's next - the company astrologer?, palm reading? Even if a double-blind cross-over study proved a link between handwriting and personality (which I doubt) it would be abused by corporate hacks trying to discriminate.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2009
I agree Snowman.
this is so incredibly unscientific that to base important decisions on it is unethical.
not rated yet Sep 26, 2009
This is fantastic!!!!!!!!!!! All communications from Politicians should, from now on, be required to be hand written.
not rated yet Sep 26, 2009
A lot of criticism here, perhaps some justified, but the premise to me is sound. It may not be practical in application, but it makes sense, that a story made up is more taxing. It may find other uses.
not rated yet Sep 27, 2009
Thanks for the heads up. I'll pay more attention when I write. Now I know how to lie better.
not rated yet Sep 28, 2009
The premise behind the accuracy of a polygraph test is that most people can't train their bodies to fool the system. It seems like it would be really easy to fool this writing test if all it measures is length of stroke and pressure...
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2009
The premise behind the accuracy of a polygraph test is that most people can't train their bodies to fool the system. It seems like it would be really easy to fool this writing test if all it measures is length of stroke and pressure...

It's quite easy to fool a polygraph. One simply needs to believe in the lie.

Hence why people pass lie detectors on Unsolved Mysteries when they explain their alien abductions or why the polygraph is inadmissible in court due to pathological liars, or why the religious' belief in God isn't determined to be duplicitous when attached to a polygraph.

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