If you were to ask a random person which gender had, “better” or “more legible” handwriting one could assume a typical answer would be females have more legible handwriting. This is most likely due to the social stereotype that women have neater handwriting, and that men are quite sloppy when in that department. But after thinking about people’s possible responses, I decided to research why people think this and to discover if there is empirical evidence backing the notion that females truly do have neater, or at least different handwriting than males.
I found an experiment performed by John R. Beech from the University of Leicester, in which participants had to guess the gender of the author of random writing questionnaires based upon their handwriting. Overall 65.67% of the males handwriting was identified correctly, and 66.08% of the females handwriting was identified correctly. So overall the majority of the time people could correctly indicate which gender was behind the handwriting. Within the results of the experiment, multiple mechanisms were identified to explain why men hand women have different distinct handwriting styles. One mechanism was the different physical features of men and women. On average the males in the study had bigger hands than the females, and their second finger tends to be relatively shorter than their fourth finger possibly resulting in a different writing style. Although, those who judged the handwriting were given criteria to rate the quality of writing on a scale of 1-5, and both genders writing on average resulted in a 3. This highlights the fact that females handwriting is not necessarily neater than males, yet they can still be differentiated from each other. Another mechanism is that women have prenatal hormones that cause for more “feminine” handwriting which on average contained more curved and bowed-out letters rather than straight.
After further research I discovered the pseudoscience of graphology. Graphologists allegedly claim to be able to determine people’s entire situation based on patterns displayed in their handwriting. Everything from the lines they use to how they space out paragraphs is taken into consideration by the graphologists. From this the graphologists can determine a persons psychological state, current social situation, and even there current state of health. For example, a graphologist may say someone who has large spaces between their words and letters may be an introvert and isolate themselves from other people because they are afraid of close proximity and intimacy.
Now obviously graphology is still a pseudoscience because no one can prove what graphologists say about handwriting is a direct result of the happenings in a persons life. Some scientists such as Barry Beyerstein, a psychology professor and science skeptic at Simon Fraser University, claimed graphology was nothing more than, “sympathetic magic”.
Despite all of the skepticism behind the notions of graphology, I believe the underlying concept of graphology could relate to why people can tell the difference between a male and a females handwriting. As I stated earlier stereotypically women are expected to be neater, cleaner, and have a feminine aspect to their daily lives. Because of these notions, women may subconsciously apply this to their handwriting in order to satisfy this expectation. Men on the other hand are thought to be more careless in regards to being neat, presentable etc. and it is socially acceptable for men to be this way. Therefore subconsciously they do not apply this to their handwriting and therefore have a different style then women, who may feel they need to write a certain way. This is all just a hypothesis based on the notions of graphology, but I feel this could be another mechanism as to why men and women have different handwriting.