I updated this article because Dr. Yank, whose research was sited, stated that I misunderstood her research study from 1991.
I am grateful that she came here and gave me this opportunity.
Dr. Yank submitted the following (an excerpt):
Submitted on 2011/12/16 at 7:17 pm
I happened to stumble upon this website and noticed a comment about my research. The research was rigorously performed and evaluated, but it seems that the blogger may not have understood the intent of the study.
I am a handwriting researcher. My goal in this study was to determine whether individuals could write different styles so consistently over time that it would make it difficult to ascertain authorship on documents. This question is relevant in the case of questioned signatures and writings (wills, forgeries, written statements, and others). That goal was clearly stated in the article.
I do not have an opinion on whether or not DID exists. My research showed that in some rare cases, alleged alters wrote in unique and consistent patterns over the time that samples were gathered (several months). These situations were very rare and were verified by people who knew the writers (I did not).
Is a change in handwriting proof that an individual possesses multiple personalities or has dissociative identity disorder as many expert believe?
Different and/or changing handwriting styles has been used as evidence of the existence of multiple personalities for decades. It is argued that an individual, either believing in or having a diagnosis of MPD/DID, can have alter personalities who write and express themselves differently on paper. It is furthermore argued that each personality can be identified by their handwriting.
I won’t argue the point that any given alter personality can be identified by their handwriting as Jane Redfield Yank, M.S.S.W. did in “Handwriting Variation in Individuals with Multiple Personality Disorder, 1991. It’s easy enough to create a character with all types of personality traits that can be reenacted and recreated over time. It occurs in films, theater, novels, and television every day. It would be interesting, however, to have a handwriting expert analyze writing samples of someone who believes they have multiple personalities. I know of no such study, but my guess is that there would be consistent inconsistency through all personalities.
I was researching the life and work of Dr. Wallace Nutting, a minister who was also a photographer and interested in preserving antiquities. Nutting (1861-1941) became interested in photography after ill health forced him to retire from ministry. His photographs were sometimes hand-colored and often signed by the colorist, rather than Nutting himself. As a result, there are many authorized signatures on file at the Wallace Nutting Library.
Here are quotes from the Library website that address the multiple personality/handwriting theory:
“Wallace Nuttings career spanned several decades so it would reasonably be expected that his signature style would change to some degree.” Of course, my handwriting is not the same as it was when in high school is yours?
“During the several decades that the Nutting Studio was in operation, several head colorist were authorized to sign Nutting’s name to his work. For this reason the signature style will vary depending on when and in what studio the picture was made.”
The library shows illustrations of Nutting’s signatures over the decades of his life. They are most interesting as they changed considerably as the culture changed, his health failed, time constraints on his art grew, colorists entered his work, and daily life moved on.
While I was in treatment, and diagnosed with multiple personalities, my former doctor used my handwriting changes as evidence that I had alters inside me that wanted to have a voice. I was initially shocked. His observations and analysis were enlightening because they quelled my doubts, and his observations were terribly frightening – leaving me with increased feelings of unreality, disconnectedness, and loss of control. Upon further thought, however, I found the statement odd for several reasons.
First, I was a prolific journalist in the early 1980s before I met him and wrote for many hours daily – easily filling a blank book in a few weeks with tiny letters and tight use of space. When I told the doctor, he chose to ignore me.
I also knew that at times I got tired and my hand hurt – so of course my handwriting changed. When I told the doctor, he chose to ignore me.
When I was mad, or in a hurry, my letters were larger, as were the loops. The script in general was more intense, bold, and forceful. When I told the doctor, he chose to ignore me.
I savored the joy of the physical act of writing, the texture and smell of different types of paper, the feel of fountain pens or plastic ones off an assembly line, and enjoyed watching how the ink flowed as I wrote. I liked the colors, the feel of a pen in my hand and how the right combination of pen and paper could keep me writing for hours. And how the wrong texture of paper and pen could keep my journal entries short. I wrote at my desk, on my lap, while on a bus, and any other place whether or not I was stationary – so of course my handwriting changed. When I told the doctor, he chose to ignore me.
I gave up trying to tell him how writers love the instruments of their craft and that there was an another explanation to the changes in my handwriting. I let the matter go and choose to ignore him – sometimes.
Back to Wallace Nutting. His plethora of signatures could easily have been used as evidence of severe childhood sexual abuse and, therefore, he could have been diagnosed with multiple personalities had he survived and lived in America during the explosion of the MPD diagnosis in the 1980s and 1990s.
I know some will say Nutting was an undiagnosed multiple. I can’t change that. Those who put weight on changing handwriting using it as proof or evidence that multiple personalities and dissociative identity disorder exist might take a moment and factor into the equation that different handwriting exists just because we are human and change all the time.
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