Much research has been conducted over the last number of centuries, into handwriting as a link between the hand and the brain. The significance of handwriting analysis to reveal the link should not be underestimated.
Handwriting analysis is easily able to point to the presence of physical and psychological imbalances such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke etc in handwriting.
Seifer (2009, 225) explains that ‘any illness which disrupts the basal ganglia will affect fine motor control’ and the ability to control writing skills.
A damaged motor cortex will result in jerky writing and the smooth completion of strokes is disrupted.
The German physiologist, Preyer, coined the term ‘brain writing’ when referring to handwriting. Handwriting reflects the brain impulses of the writer. Whether the individual uses the hand, foot or mouth, the same core features will be present in the writing. ‘The hand or the foot writes, but the brain dictates the peculiar shape of the movement.’ (Mendel 1982, p 339). According to Mendel, (1982, p 342), ‘handwriting is a psycho-physiological process. The initial impulse to write is a psychological process, e.g. the forming of letters, l, a, i, etc is a psychological process. But the writing also involves the execution of movements: movements of contraction and movements of extension. These are physiological processes, determined in their individual characteristics by individual peculiarities of build and physiological function.’ These factors influence the way the individual writer moves away from the copybook which was taught at school.
As Koppenhaver (2007) explains, everyone learns to write according to the system taught in a country, but as the person moves towards graphic maturity, they change and individualise their writing which thus becomes unique to them. She points out that although many writers have similar individual characteristics, the combination of features is what makes each writer’s writing unique, i.e. the deviation from the copybook unique to each writer is what distinguishes the writing of a specific writer. Features of writing were defined by Dick (in Morris 2000, p 63), as ‘those characteristics that are peculiar to the writing of a particular individual and which constitute his or her writing habits’ and these include conspicuous and inconspicuous characteristics.
Morris (2000) says that handwriting is a form of self expression and the graphically mature writer concentrates less on how the pen moves in the writing process and more on the content of what is being written. As the writer becomes more and more adept at writing, it becomes a smoother and less conscious action. For the skilled writer, the act of forming letters is automatic therefore unconscious and not deliberate. This is contrary to the stilted, deliberate movements and writing actions of a forger.
According to Wolf (1963) since handwriting is an unconscious action, and since handwriting analysis is used to identify whether a writing is genuine, it is therefore recognised that the forger is not able to maintain writing features which are contrary to his or her unconscious personal handwriting trends which are part of personality.
This has significance for the forensic handwriting expert who should bear in mind that handwriting is a complex perceptual-motor task. During the course of writing the unique brain impulses of a writer or forger of writing will be revealed and the unique features included by the writer will eventually ‘slip’ through in the forgery. A further significance would be that medical history could prove anomalous to a questioned handwriting. An example of this would be handwriting line quality which is firm and strong, yet the supposed writer has Parkinson’s disease or had suffered a stroke at the time that the writing was claimed to have been written.
The handwriting analyst can never ignore what the handwriting reveals about the condition of the brain.