- Some graphological experiments with the scriptochronograph - article ; n°1 ; vol.50, pg 585-591
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- Some graphological experiments with the scriptochronograph - article ; n°1 ; vol.50, pg 585-591


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L'année psychologique - Année 1949 - Volume 50 - Numéro 1 - Pages 585-591
7 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



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Published 01 January 1949
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Language English

D. Katz
VII. - Some graphological experiments with the
In: L'année psychologique. 1949 vol. 50. pp. 585-591.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Katz D. VII. - Some graphological experiments with the scriptochronograph. In: L'année psychologique. 1949 vol. 50. pp. 585-
doi : 10.3406/psy.1949.8475
by David Katz
Psykologiska Institutet, Stockholm.
The scriptochronograph is an apparatus which makes it pos
sible to measure the temporal characteristics of handwriting
with any degree of exactitude desired; it is, however, equally
useful for a time analysis of movements other than those of
writing which permit of graphic registration, such as hand move
ments generally, which are of interest to neurologists 1. The
novelty of the apparatus consists in that it enables the experi
menter to carry out an analysis directly from the written record
without the necessity of using additional apparatus.
The handwriting to be analysed is produced by means of
electrolysis. In writing the subject uses a steel rod (Fe) as posi
tive pole, while the paper rests on a zinc sheet representing the
negative pole. Paper of a suitable thickness is placed in a 10 %
solution of KiFe(CN)6 and is afterwards treated for approxi
mately one minute with potassium thiocyanate KSCN to make
the writing which is of a blue colour more clearly legible.
While the subject is writing, the current does not remain
closed, but is by means of a special appliance interrupted at
predetermined intervals up to 60 times a second. The handwrit
ing thus appears not as a continuous line, but as a series of
1. The Scriptochronograph has been patented in Sweden. Nr. 128871,
class 42n : 2/01. A more detailed description of the apparatus can be found
in : David Katz, The Scriptochronograph. Quarterly Journal of Experimental
Psychology, vol. I, Pt. 2, 1948. 586 PSYCHOLOGIE APPLIQUEE
dots. The time unit represented by each dot is determined accor
ding to the number of interruptions per second.
The scriptochronograph itself permits measurement only of
those times during which the stylus, while moving, is in contact
with the paper. Writing, however, is carried on not only by those
movements which leave visible traces on paper, but also by
other processes which take place in the space above the paper
and therefore pass without leaving a trace, yet without which
writing as such would not be possible. These processes may be
divided into transition movements and pauses. The transition
movements may, after Kiinnapas, be divided into intraverbal
and interverbal movements, axcording to whether they occur
within a word or between different words *. Among intra verbal
transition movements are, e. g., those which lead the pen to the
places on the paper where the diacritic signs — dot over the i,
accents in French, modification signs in German and Swedish —
are to be placed; among them are, however, also those move
ments which are due to the writer's stopping now and then in
the middle of a word and then having to bring his pen into renew
ed contact with the paper. Interverbal transition movements
occur at the transition to the following word.
While movements are necessary elements of the
writing process, the same cannot be said of pauses. They are
due to the most varied causes, e. g. reflection during spontaneous
writing, eye control while copying, alterations in the writer's
grip on the pen etc. It is often, however, difficult to mark a dis
tinct boundary between transition movements and pauses. In
the experiments described below pauses played a very minor
part, transition movements, however, were very important.
For an examination of the temporal characteristics of these
transition movements which are, after all, of great relevance
for the complete writing process, an additional appliance is used
with the scriptochronograph; this is also required for the mea
suring of those time intervals during which the pen makes
traces on the paper while resting on it, as, e. g., when the writer
puts a full stop.
This additional appliance consists in a specially reconstruc
ted morse telegraph apparatus. The current passing through
the stylus is also made to pass through the electro-magnet of
1. Theodor Künnapas Skriptokronograf i förbindelse med morseappara-
ten. Nordisk Psykologi, 1950. D. KATZ. SOME GRAPHOLOGICAL EXPERIMENTS 587
the telegraph apparatus, and each beat of the current marks
a line on the paper ribbon belonging to it, which moves at a cons
tant, known speed. Quite apart from the considerable advantage
gained by the use of this additional appliance which permits
of obtaining an exact picture of the temporal characteristics
of the complete writing process including the times the scrip-
tochronograph as such cannot measure, it also facilitates the
counting of the time units for the completed act of writing.
The apparatus as described above permits the carrying out
of a great number of experiments of a graphological nature,
both in the narrower sense of the word now in current use, i. e.
as character interpretation of handwriting; and in the wicbr
sense, of examination of handwriting generally. The experiments
described below refer to graphology in this wider sense 1.
As a preliminary to a description of the experiments, some
data about the history of time-measurements of handwriting
may be of interest. Binet and Courtier were probably the first
to make exact measurements 2. In their experiments they used
Edison's electric pen which functions by punching 11000 holes
per minute into the paper used for writing. Binet and Courtier
themselves admit that the process is hardly apt to produce
ordinary writing.
Freeman was the first to use the film to determine temporal
characteristics of handwriting 3. Saudek from time to time made
use of Freeman's method in his graphological experiments 4.
He called the smallest unit measurable by the cinematograph
technique, viz. 1/25 of a second, the 'Freeman time unit'.
This technique is very complicated compared to the simple
method of using the scriptochronograph.
A further method for the exact measurement of writing
movements was mentioned by Gemelli. This does not, however,
permit of measuring those times which, in the present method,
are analysed by the morse apparatus 5.
1. Cp. Künnapas, /. c; also, David Katz. Gestalt Psychology, New-York,
1950. (French edition in preparation). — David Katz et Hermann Seichter.
Graphological experiments with the scriptochronograph. Ada Psychologica,
2. A. Binet et S. Courtier. Sur la vitesse des mouvements graphiques.
Revue philosophique, 35, 1893.
3. Frank Nugent Freeman. An experimental analysis of the writing
movement. Psychological Monographs, 17, 1914.
4. R. Saudek. Experimentelle Graphologie, Berlin, 1929.
5. A. Gemelli. Contributo all analisi dei movimenti della scrittura.
C ommenlaiiones, Poniifica Academia Scientiarum, 12, 1948. ;
From the point of view of Gestalt psychology it is of consi
derable interest that transposition laws exist not only in the
sensory field, as e. g. for melodies, but that these can be proved
to exist also for movement forms, as e. g. in handwriting. If
the size of the handwriting is altered by not too great a margin,
the time taken for the writing remains almost the same; the
speed of writing therefore varies, while the movement Gestalt
is preserved, in direct proportion to the size of the writing;
small size characters are written more slowly than larger ones.
If the speed at which a particular word is written is altered,
the percentual relationship between the times taken in the
writing of the single letters remains constant : the action Gestalt
as a whole is therefore accelerated or slowed down.
The expression " total writing time " below denotes the time
used to set down a longer or shorter text, either spontaneously
or by means of copying, or from dictation, from the start of
the writing to its completion. This total writing time which is
most easily determined by means of a stop-watch, if texts of
a suitable extent are used, also includes the time taken by
transition movements and pauses. For graphological examinat
ions an expression is needed for the time during which the pen
is in moving contact with the paper; for this the expression
" objective writing time " will be used.
Katz and Seichter asked 35 subjects to copy a text of 50 words
containing 209 letters, with which they had first been made
thoroughly familiar. Total writing time varied considerably
according to the writing skill of the subjects, viz. from 108
to 244 seconds, the average being 138,1 seconds. Objective
time varied from 48,3 to 128,5 seconds, with an average of
75,6 seconds : hence, of the total writing time no less than
45,3 % was taken up by transition movements and pauses. It
was found that the subjects might be divided into 4 groups,,
as shown in Table I.
Total Writing Objective Ob „ , 1 ■;. . ective ime , . l ,,. Movements and transition , pauses , Group Time Time
1 1.16,5 sec. 65,0 sec. 55,8 % 44,3 %
2 131,5 91,8 69,8 30,2
144,0 3 51,7 35,9 64,1
197,5 4 103,6 52,5 47,5 KATZ. SOME GRAPHOLOGICAL EXPERIMENTS 589 D.
1. The first group showed a short total writing time, and a
relatively short objective time. Both times were below ave
rage. This group wrote very fast, but with relatively long tran
sition movements and pauses. 2. The second group combined a
generally short total writing time with a rather long objective
time. It therefore made short transition movements and pauses.
3. The third group had a rather larger total writing time than
the previous group, but with a peculiarly short objective time :
the transition movements and pauses were hence strikingly
long. 4. The fourth group showed a strikingly long total writing
time, the time spent in transition movements and pauses being
about the average.
In another experiment Katz and Seichter asked the subjects
to write a text spontaneously instead of copying. It was found
that this time the subjects not only wrote more quickly, but
also that there was a different distribution of total writing time
as between objective time and transition movements and pauses,
to the detriment of the transition and pauses. The
time taken by transition movements and pauses amounted now
no longer to 45,3 % but only to 35,4 % of the total writing
time. Evidently in spontaneous writing the transition to the
next word is found to be easier and this is written down more
speedily than is the case when writing to a model.
In a third experiment the subjects were asked to write the
spontaneously written text once more, but this time at the grea
test possible speed. Total writing time decreased now by 21 %,
objective time, however, only by 8 %. The gain in time was
therefore effected in the main by reducing the transition move
ments and pauses. In Gestalt psychology the pauses assume the
functions of a background, and this, as is equally the case in
optical material, is more tractable than the writing Gestalt.
It would be interesting to compare the conditions obtaining
during an acceleration of speech and to investigate whether this
is accomplished by similar means.
Kiinnapas' experiments, described below, deal likewise with an
analysis of temporal relationships in writing. The relation bet
ween total writing time, objective time and the time taken by
interverbal transition movements was found for the writing of
the subject's own name — Ghristian names and surname — in
various ways, viz. 1/ in the usual way, 2/ at greater speed, 3/
at reduced speed. 590 PSYCHOLOGIE APPLIQUEE
Total Transition Transition Objective Objective Movements Movements Writing Time Time Time and pauses and pauses
7,78 sec. 5.41 sec. 2,37 sec. 30 70 % 1) Normal
1,71 5.79 4,08 70 30 2) Faster.
3) Slower. 9,63 6,94 2,69 72 28
While the time taken by interverbal transition movements is
relatively not so large as in Katz'and Seichter's experiments, it is
yet, at appr. 30 %, still considerable. It is interesting to note that
the relationship between the two times measured alters little or
not at all when writing is done at greater or lesser speed than nor
mal. This would seem to show that the transition movements
are under these conditions likewise subject to the law of transpos
As mentioned above, Künnapas distinguished between inter-
verbal and intraverbal transition movements. He made a special
study of the relationship between these two times in writing at
normal, accelerated and reduced speeds, and in writing enlarged
or reduced in size. For the results see Table III.
Intraverbal Interverbal
Transition Transition Quotient
Movements Movements
1) Normal. . . . 0,21 0,57 0,37
2) Greater speed . 0,16 0,43
3) Reduced speed. 0,24 0,66 0,36
4) Enlarged . . . 0,22 0,58 0,38
5)in size 0,35 0,19 0,55
As may be seen from this table, the times taken by intraverbal
transition movements were much smaller than those for interver-
bal ones, viz. three times as small. And this relationship remained
constant in all the five cases here examined. The theorem of the
transposition of writing movements was therefore observed to be D. KATZ. SOME GRAPHOLOGICAL EXPERIMENTS 591
true not only for the relationship between writing movements and
interverbal transition movements, but also for the relationship
between intraverbal and interverbal transition movements.
Kiinnapas found that the times taken by transition movements
mirrored very closely the linguistic-logical structure of the mater
ial, in such a way that material logically connected was separated
by smaller intervals than disconnected material. When a subject
wrote his name and Christian names, within a paragraph of
connected material, the time for transition movements between
the Christian names was shortest, but the time taken by the tran
sition movement between the last Christian name and the sur
name was again shorter than that for the transition movement
following the name. It may be added here that the projection of
linguistic-logical conditions which was here produced in the
field of time had no correlate in space, i. e. was not expressed in a
similar spacing between the handwritten words.
In conclusion we shall describe Künnapas'experiments with
diacritic signs as these occupy a special place with regard to tran
sition movements. The times taken by transition movements as
well as those taken by the writing of the signs themselves were
Transition Movement Diacritic Sign
0,19 sec. 0,084 sec. i/j
é. 0,20 0,097
ö. 0,26 0,12
ä. 0,30 0,13 0,21
On the whole there appeared a parallelism between the shorter
time taken for the transition movement and ä shorter time taken
by the writing of the diacritic sign itself. The times are generally
very short, shortest for i/j and é. Next come ö and ä, while Swe
dish â with its unusually long time is in a class apart. The times
taken by intraverbal transition movements in connection with
diacritic signs are generally somewhat greater than those for any
other intraverbal transition movements. They naturally depend
greatly on the care with which the signs are put. If the dot is
to be placed exactly above the i or the accent above the é, then
transition times as well as writing times will be much greater.