There is hardly a human behavior more difficult to understand or predict than violence or dangerousness. This has been baffling and challenging to the criminal justice, social service and behavioral health fields. Some have even suggested that mental health experts are probably worse than the general public in predicting dangerousness. Valid and reliable tools have simply not been available, at least on a replicable and generalizable basis.
Given how crucial this issue is to increasing numbers of individuals and families, agencies, and to society as a whole, it may be time to be adventuresome and creative in seeking alternative modalities that might increase our understanding of violence. We have little to lose. It may even be possible to improve our prediction capability to something better than might be achieved through random selection.
It was approximately 15 years ago while Chief of the Hawaii State Mental Health Division that I was introduced to the capabilities of graphology and the special skills of Kimon Iannetta. It is difficult for me to say whether I was more surprised by graphology's potential, or by Ms. Iannetta's perceptiveness.
At first I was quite skeptical. This skepticism was shared by the dozens of high-level psychiatric and psychological practitioners and administrators to whom I introduced both Kimon Iannetta and graphology, soon after my first exposure to it. I can say without exaggeration that the impact and impression upon my colleagues as surprisingly and uniformly positive. Despite the paucity of scientific investigation of this field, the clinical operational value was readily apparent. This positive response led to requests for Ms. Iannetta to conduct a series of graphology training seminars for mental health professionals.
More importantly, a significant development from these initial explorations was a pilot study that specifically focused on the utilization of graphology in gaining a better understanding of dangerousness. This study began in the mid 1980's. It looked at 24 psychiatric inpatients, 12 who had a history of repeated criminally dangerous behavior. In evaluating the potential for dangerousness, two experienced graphologists were correct 95% of the time. The analysts seemed to be able to identify the method and type of crime and have an 81% accuracy rate in detecting which subjects had histories of suicidal gestures. It was particularly fortunate that two respected and research experienced psychologists, Dr. James Craine and Dr. Dennis McLaughlin, were willing to be part of this study and guide the scientific approach utilized.
The preliminary findings reported in this document are astounding. The incorporation of a wealth of graphological material and interpretations provides an impressive and stimulating array of exciting information...
This compendium of data and directions will undoubtedly be very provocative to the traditional evaluator and clinician.
If it is possible to put bias and prejudice aside, I believe that the value of this particular tool in providing a better understanding of dangerousness will be astounding. I highly recommend that you study this wealth of information carefully and objectively so that we might seek some of the solutions to better understanding this complex aspect of human and societal behavior.
Denis Mee-Lee, MD