girl writing in notebook while studying girl writing in notebook while studying If you're happy and you know it, so does your handwriting. (Photo: By Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock)

What your handwriting says about your mood

A new study hones in on the association between penmanship and personality.

To the untrained eye, handwriting styles may seem random and completely innocuous. Some write big and bubbly; others prefer small and elegant; and still others tend toward the unreadable. Like that signature on your last prescription, for instance.

But a new study from the University of Haifa in Israel shows that your handwriting actually says more about you than you thought. It's particularly adept at revealing what mood you're in.

Professor Sarah Rosenblum of the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Haifa has been studying cognitive theory as it relates to handwriting for years. Researchers have already developed a computerized system that measures and analyzes even the smallest details of a person's handwriting, such as the space between the letters and the amount of pressure we apply when writing. Using this system, she discovered that changes in handwriting can reveal when we are lying – both orally and in writing – and even whether someone is in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.

Fragment of an old handwritten letter, written in Polish in 1937. Rich stain and paper details. Wonder what the writer was thinking? We do, too, because we can't read Polish. (Photo: Arkady Mazor/Shutterstock)

Now, in the latest study, doctoral student Clara Rispler and her colleagues – Professor Gil Luria and Dr. Alon Kahane from the Human Services Department at the University of Haifa – joined forces with Rosenblum to examine whether changes in handwriting can be used to identify moods.

Researchers broke up study participants into three groups. Then, each group underwent an activity that put the participants in a different mood – positive, negative, and neutral, by viewing appropriate movies. After that, the participants were instructed to write a paragraph.

After studying the participants' paragraphs, the different moods of each group were evident in characteristics like letter shape and size. For example, the height of the letters written by people in a negative mood was significantly lower than that of the positive or neutral groups. Also, participants in a negative mood showed quicker writing and narrower width of letters than those in a positive or neutral mood.

The font started as a Kickstarter campaign and is now available to the public. Can you tell what mood Albert Einstein is in by looking at the letters he wrote? (Photo: Courtesy photo)

But why? The researchers explain that it is probably the negative mood that creates a cognitive burden on the brain, leading in turn to changes in handwriting.

“The findings of the study may help therapists identify their patient’s actual mood, something that naturally is very significant for the therapeutic process,” Rosenblum said. “No less importantly, we therapists can see whether our therapy is improving the patient’s feelings, or at least involving the patient in a meaningful process, for better or for worse. In the future, we will try to examine whether we can also measure the level of the mood, i.e. how happy or sad someone is.”

So watch out: if you're happy and you know it, your handwriting will, too.

Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows

Related Topics: Science

What your handwriting says about your mood
New research out of the University of Haifa hones in on the association between penmanship and personality.