Some people have handwriting that’s a work of art. Worse, the graceful and elegant words appear to effortlessly stream out of their pen. Then there are people whose writing resembles chicken scratches left in the sandy soil. Some, like doctors, are in a hurry, but others look like they try, yet their lettering remains rubbish. So is our handwriting nature, nurture, or a bit of both?
Handwriting is influenced by both genetics and learned behavior. Genetically, handwriting is affected by bone structure, hand-eye coordination, and muscle memory. However, our state of mind, personality, and a desire to emulate another person, such as a parent, also contribute to our handwriting.
TV shows portraying forensic handwriting experts often make a person’s penmanship and signature sound as personal as a fingerprint. However, unlike fingerprints, handwriting often changes over a person’s lifetime and can even improve later in life if a person wants to put in the effort. But that doesn’t mean handwriting isn’t partially genetic or a window to ourselves.
Can You Inherit Your Handwriting?
There are genetic factors that influence a person’s handwriting. For example, bone structure impacts grip, and how a pen is held impacts penmanship. Studies also indicate many motor skills are genetically influenced, such as hand-eye coordination, and these have a correlation with our relationship to language, including reading. Likewise, hand-eye coordination and overall motor skills impact handwriting.
What Genetics Can And Can’t Influence In Your Handwriting
However, when it comes to handwriting, genetic influence is limited in the finished product. For example, one study indicated that while there is a high tendency for genetics to influence entry and exit strokes, they have little to no impact on how much pressure a person uses when writing.
Similarly, forensic experts have found that genetics often contributes to the way a person crosses their t’s. But while this can lead to shared characteristics in handwriting amongst a family, it is not why some children’s penmanship is a dead ringer for their parent’s. In those cases, the child is copying. After all, imitation is one of the ways we, as human beings, learn.
Social And Emotional Influence On Your Handwriting
Yes, children’s handwriting might be copying a parent’s, a friend’s, or some TikTok influencer’s. Likewise, some trends impact how people write, such as using hearts to dot an “i.” But TV show depictions of forensic experts often make them sound clairvoyant. When no, the way you loop your letters does not indicate your profound affection for cats or that you’d recently eaten a tuna sandwich.
But there are tendencies in handwriting that reflect a person’s emotional state. For example, a study showed that people’s handwriting shifts with their mood. For instance, the study revealed that people’s letters got shorter and narrower when they were in a negative mood. Studies have also found a shift in a person’s handwriting can also be an indication of someone’s mental health.
When people are tense, they tend to stiffen muscles, whereas someone relaxed has more fluidity. Tension in the hand will affect writing. People are also known to talk faster when anxious or excited. Thus, it isn’t surprising to learn that the same emotions could impact our writing speed.
However, it is far easier to make conclusions about a person’s emotional state if you have many samples of their writing. This is because shorter letters for one person could be another person’s typical letter height. But if a forensic expert has examples of a person’s penmanship in a neutral mood, this provides a baseline to see if other writing has changed height, width, and even speed.
Which isn’t to say there isn’t information to be gleaned from limited writing samples. For instance, when a typical person writes their signature, it is an everyday action that rarely requires careful attention. However, if somebody is trying to forge another’s signature, they slow down and take care, trying to ensure they’ve done it exactly right. Thus, the speed and care taken with a signature can indicate if it is real or forged.
Does Bad Handwriting Mean You Are Intelligent?
There are many headlines that equate bad handwriting with higher intelligence or creativity. However, these articles either site no sources, as with the second case, or are misrepresenting a study. In the former’s case, it is a paper published in 1906. In this study is a quote, “A tendency to scrawly or illegible handwriting has been frequently noted among men of genius.”
However, that same paper opened with a study that looked at school children and compared their school intelligence with their handwriting. Overwhelmingly, the children with the better writing were the better students.
The study then goes on to show exceptions to this, including the fact that handwriting is impacted by muscle control, and those with ataxia can also have poor handwriting and/or a stutter. That having a stutter does not indicate poor intelligence.
Thus, the comment about “men of genius” having poor writing was to give balance. That yes, kids with better handwriting often are better students, but having poor handwriting doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of intelligence. That poor writing can signify other things that have nothing to do with intelligence.
Since 1906, there have been other studies, such as this one in 1984. It found no relationship between handwriting legibility and intelligence. However, there were signs that handwriting speed and IQ may be linked.
Can Handwriting Impact Intelligence And Creative?
While the jury is still out if handwriting is a sign of intelligence, there is a great deal of evidence to point to the cognitive benefits of putting pen to paper. For example, one study showed that children’s brains are more active when writing by hand than by typing. They went on to show that taking notes by hand will help people retain information better.
Thus, the push to write by hand has been given a reboot. More studies have followed, showing the benefits of writing by hand. In addition, due to using more of the brain, wellness groups and the press are reporting how going back to pen and paper can help expand creativity and even help our intelligence. Thus, while our handwriting might not reflect our intelligence, the act of doing it might be the smarter choice.
Our handwriting is influenced by many factors, some of which are genetic. But attempts to link intelligence to good or poor writing have been a mixed bag. However, the evidence does support getting off the keyboard from time to time and picking up a pen. It may not only help your memory but have other benefits too.