Hand Analysis Psychology

Many handanalysts allege that on the basis of a hand only they are able to produce a personality profile in which people recognize themselves. However, are people able to identify their own personality profile?

Attention for the psychology between
the handanalyst & the client!

Experienced handanalysts receive very positive feedback from their clients during practicing handanalysis. Does the positive feedback affirm the effect of a handanalysis consultation? Or is the positive feedback possibly the result of a psychological mechanism which results from the interaction between the handanalyst and the client? In the following I will discuss the results of some fascinating hand reading experiments!

- The Forer experiment! -

What is the value of
positive feedback?

Various experiments have indicated that people can be seduced easily to provide positive feedback. Probably the most famous study on this matter is the experiment executed in 1948 by psychologist Bertram Forer.

Forer invited his student to participate in a personality test. The first phase of this test concerned asking the students to provide various personal information about themselves, related to: hobbies, personal characteristics, secret hopes, and their ambitions. Afterwards Forer promised his students that within a week he would give them a brief description of their personality based on the results of the test.

True to his word, one week later Forer gave each student what appeared to be a personalized interpretation: a typed personality sketch with the student's own name written on the top.

The students were assured that their privacy would be strictly respected, since no one except the student and Dr. Forer would ever know the contents of the sketch.

After reading the sketches, the students were asked to rate the effectiveness of the test in describing their personality, using a scale from 0 ("poor") to 5 ("perfect"). They evidently thought that the test had done a good job, for their average rating was 4.26. However, there was only one thing wrong: unbeknown to the students, Forer had given each of them the identical personality sketch!

After Forer's experiment, psychology students have been invited frequently to participate in likewise experiments and the average result is still about to be 4.2. What one can learn from Forer's experiment is that under certain conditions people are seduced easily to provide positive feedback.

The tendency of men and women to recognize themselves in a broad general personality sketch is called in scientific psychology the 'Barnum-effect' - named after P.T. Barnum of circus fame, who is known to be a brilliant psychological manipulator.

['click' at
The Sceptic's Dictionary in order to read more information about the Barnum-effect']

Examples of statements used by Forer in 1948 in order to induce the 'Barnum-effect'.

1 - "You have a great need for other people to like and admire you."
2 - "You have a tendency to be critical of yourselve."
3 - "You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage."
4 - "While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them."
5 - "Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you."
6 - "Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside."
7 - "You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others."
8 - "At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved."

- The handanalysis students experiment -

The feedback of handanalysis students

In line with Forer's experiment I have introduced a likewise experiment during a 10-day handanalysis class. In the third meeting of that class I have made inkprints of the students' hands, and I have presented my students the opportunity to receive a personal handanalysis composed by a very experienced handanalyst. Afterwards I have informed the students that I would contact these handanalysts in order to ask them to compose a personality sketch on the basis of the hand inkprints.

During the final course meeting the final moment had arrived! The students received 'their' personality sketch which included the name of one of my very experienced discussion partners at the Handreading Cyber Cafe - this is an internet discussion group created by and focussed on (professional) handanalysts.

When the students had studied their personality sketch, I have asked them to rate the expertise of the handanalyst by answering the question:

"Has the handanalyst been able to put a finger on how you live your life as a unique person?"

The students were asked to provide their feedback in a rating varying from 1 (='no') to 5 (= 'yes'). Evidently the handanalysis students thought that the handanalysts had done a good job, for the average score was 4.1. Afterwards I have invited the students I to share their thoughts about their individual experiences during reading the profile. A few minutes later the atmosphere among the students became ludicrous since they discovered that each of them had rated the same personality sketch!

[ Would you like to read the 'Barnum-profile' presented to the handanalysis students?: 'click' HERE ]

By the way, during the first course meeting I had informed the student about my observation that it is actually very hard to find out about the reliability of handanalysis - because of the 'Barnum-effect'. After the experiment I have reminded my students about that issue, but I have also explained them that the result of this experiment should not be recognized as an indication for the reliability of handanalysis.

Nevertheless, this experiment did have an important functionality in the course 'evolutionary handanalysis' which I have presented as an experiment in the second half of the year 2003. For by means of this experiment I have putten the students in a position in order to experience themselves that the value of positive feedback can sometimes be very limited.

- The handanalysts experiment -

The feedback of handanalysis clients

This brings us into a position where we could start speculating about the value of the client's feedback during a handanalysisconsultation. However, since we can only speculate about this matter, this might not be very usefull. More interestingly we can use an experiment in order to face the following question:

'Are people able to recognize themselves in a personality sketch composed by an experienced handanalyst?'

In order to answer this question I would like to present an experiment which I have conducted in the summer of 2001 in coöperation with 6 experienced handanalysts - each of them has putten handanalysis into practice for at least 10 years:

['click' HERE in order to read a very comprehensive research report about the handanalysts experiment]

In the perspective of this experiment I had selected 5 female subjects and I have asked them to provide their hands available for a handanalysis research program. Every single handanalyst was asked to compose a personality sketch for each of the subjects on the basis of a photo + an inkprint of the hands only. Afterwards I have presented the personality sketches composed by handanalyst 1 to each subject and they were asked to select the best sketch - the best one with which each subject could identify with. This procedure was also conducted to the series of personality sketches which were composed by the other handanalysts.

The design of this experiment might appear to be complicated, however the controll-mechanism is actually very simpel. Are the subjects able to identify the personality sketch which is created by the handanalyst on the basis of their hands?

During this experiment every subject was asked 6 times to select the best recognizable personality sketch among a series of five. Out of the 30 selected personality sketches, the one and only correct sketch was selected only 7 times. Two handanalysts had been able to make 2 out of 5 subjects selecting the right sketch. Three handanalysts had been able to make only 1 subject selecting the right sketch. And regarding the analyses of one handanalyst, none of the subjects was able to recognize the one and only correct sketch.

By the way, on each series of personality sketches every subject was also asked to select the 2 most unrecognizable personality sketches. The strange thing about this specific aspect of the matter is that among the series of each single handanalyst, at least one subject had selected the personality sketch which was actually created on the basis of her hands. More critical: regarding the series of sketches composed by two handanalysts, two subjects have selected 'their' sketches as 'unrecognizable'. Most alarming is this matter is that regarding the sketches composed by one of these experienced handanalysts, up to three subjects have selected 'their' sketches as 'unrecognizable'.

The experiments which I have described indicate that the effect of a handanalysis consultation is very likely determined for a large part by the interaction between the handanalyst and the client.
Obviously the last experiment has indicated that in a situation where there is no interaction at all, most of the times the testsubjects were not able to identify the analysis which was being created for them by the handanalyst.

Possibly the effect of a handanalysis consultation is also determined by the circumstances which are being created by the handanalyst.

Especially when the client is full of expectations, the Barnum-effect is most likely induced. On top of that the Dodo-effect plays likely as well a part in the fact that the handanalysis literature presents contradictory theories... and those theories seem all to have been confirmed during the practice of handanalysis, at least somewhere around the world.

Martijn van Mensvoort - Hand Research

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