Graphological Identification

Graphological Identification


in criminology, the identification of an individual by his writing or handwriting, that is, the determination of the author by comparative study of the graphological traits found in a document whose author is not known with the graphological traits contained in samples written by suspects. The objects of graphological identification are documents that have value as evidence in a criminal case.

Graphological identification is possible since every piece of writing has two aspects—the semantic element (content, style, manner of execution, vocabulary, and other features of written speech) and the graphic element (handwriting as a system of cultivated motor acts necessary for the automatic cursive execution of letters, words, numbers, and punctuation marks). Technical and graphological habits and the habits of written discourse that affect the complex mechanisms of higher nervous activity in humans are basic to the process of handwriting formation.

The lawlike regularity in the formation of the so-called dynamic stereotype of the person whose writing is under consideration is conditioned by the individuality and the relative stability of the cultivated handwriting traits. These traits leave their imprint on handwritten texts and signatures and reveal the unique totality of graphological habits belonging to the particular individual.

The identifying traits in writing or handwriting are classified for purposes of graphological identification into several major categories. One category related to the characteristics of written discourse is grammatical features, including mistakes in usage, sentence structure, and punctuation. Another category related to the characteristics of written discourse is lexical features, including size and peculiarities of vocabulary—for instance, archaisms, neologisms, barbarisms (foreign words), dialecticalisms (words from regional speech), professionalisms (characteristic words of a particular profession), and slang (conventional language, for example the thieves’ jargon of professional criminals). Several categories related to handwriting traits are also distinguished, including topography (special, habitual features concerning the arrangement on the paper of the text and its parts, including margins, indentations, spacing between words and between lines, signatures, dates, etc.); the general traits that characterize the motor writing habits of the entire system of writing movements (the degree of cultivation of the handwriting, its dimensions, slopes, connectedness, and pressure); and the traits that characterize an individual’s consistent writing habits in the automatic execution of individual written elements and their details. In carrying out grapholog-ical identification, the continuity of the semantic and motor aspects of the writing is taken into account.

Graphological identification is the basis of the formal graphological examination by experts, which is administered in institutions for criminal examination (research institutes and laboratories for judicial examination) upon the decision of investigation and prosecution agencies or of the court.


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A. I. VInberg