Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hiring Handwriting Experts for Voir Dire

Looking for Clues in a Juror's 'John Hancock', Nat'l L.J. (, Feb. 27, 2007.

Handwriting analysis for jury selection has been used for decades, but the number of experts and attorneys who hire them has remained small. Some people remain skeptical about such work, but lawyers who count on it said it gives them a competitive edge.
The believers say that the handwriting analysts help them pick out a juror who will be a rebel who sticks to his beliefs, or a leader, or a detail-oriented person. They point to million-dollar verdicts they've won. Skeptics say: where's the science?

I remembered seeing a bit of a "Scientific American Frontiers" (hosted by Alan Alda) years ago, so I looked it up. As I remembered, Alan Alda and another man had handwriting samples tested and decided that the analysts didn't really capture their personalities. The conclusion, spoken by a neuroscientist named Barry Beyerstein:
There have been well over 200 studies now done by experts in the field of personality psychology and psychological measurement, personnel work and so on, where graphologists have participated knowingly, willingly, claiming that they were sure they could deliver the goods, and they've fallen flat on their faces. I mean, the bottom line, when you look at the whole gamut of research, is that this is like tea leaf reading, this is like palm reading, this is like astrology. It's a pseudoscience, it has no scientific credibility.
"Beyond Science?" transcript (premiered Nov. 19, 1997).

And how does this fit with the declining emphasis on handwriting? See In age of computers, is cursive writing cursed?, Seattle Times (reprinted from Minneapolis Star Tribune), April 14, 2007.

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