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19.07.2014
I know that this bubble handwriting is somewhat more common among girls, but I've also known several guys who wrote this way, none of whom were especially smart. Just to clarify, my hypothesis is (unexceptional students (bubble handwriting) ), not vice-versa; I've certainly known a lot of dull people with penmanship that wasn't in any way bubbly. Also, I realize any question that frankly discusses the intelligence of human populations in the aggregate is likely to get a lot of hate, but I'm honestly curious about this, and not in any way looking for grounds to oppress or denigrate the bubblers of the world. A close female relative of mine has handwriting that looks like someone threw a bunch of Cheerios on some paper. Well, I write with bubbly handwriting quite often (I have absolutely no consistent style) and I have a PhD in Neuroscience, focusing on reproductive and developmental neurobiology. I'm pretty sure I've known lots of smart people with bubbly hand-writing, but to be honest I haven't really looked at anyone else's handwriting for many years and I don't remember examples.
However, here is a speculative hypothesis: smart people may be less exposed to the social pressures that encourage bubble writing. Also, are we measuring intellect, or social traits that people erroneously connect with intellect?
As an extension of your hypothesis, I'd say a larger issue is that penmanship as a whole, and cursive writing isn't taught the way it once was. The teaching of cursive has been de-emphasized in many public schools, but is still used for situations such as timed tests with large writing portions, where it is considered faster.
I used to work in the archives of a noted figure that consisted largely of hand written correspondence with famous individuals.
I could tentatively see an argument that handwriting may denote the emotional mindset present when someone is learning to write.
It sounds like you drifted into confirmation bias, where seeing the handwriting of some lackluster students = bubbles there came the assumption that bubbles = lackluster students. You sit down to grade papers and, upon laying eyes on the bubbly handwriting, you think, "Oh, boy. Certain bubbly handwriting reminds me of a calm version of the lettering you see in some street tagging (your last example, for one). There was a specific tall-bubble style of handwriting that was in vogue at my middle and high school; all the popular girls wrote that way, as did most of the girls who wanted to be popular. Among college students, I did find while marking papers that people with any type of affected-looking handwriting, most of whom were bubble-writers, tended to do worse on homework and exams.
Should tack on to my previous comment that by far the best work I graded while teaching college students came from a bubble-writer with a standard Western first and last name. In grade school we learned to write regularly in k-2 then in 3rd or so we started cursive, which we were required to use through 5th grade for all assignments that we handed in.
Basically I don't think it has to do with intelligence, but rather general interest (or lack thereof) in a structured school setting. For what it's worth, I realize that anecdote(s) != data, but after all anecdotes are what AskMeFi is good at, and I doubt the NSF cheque for my large-scale, rigorously-controlled statistical study of cognitive performance and graphological rotundity will be arriving in the mail anytime soon. Anecdotally, the South Indian tech assistant at my office has jaw-droppingly awesome, Revolutionary-War-archive-document handwriting.
So, did all of these exceptionally smart kids (by your narrow definition) have non-bubbly handwriting? I will note that the truly, truly exceptional kids at my high school--I mean the kids who had skipped two years ahead and were studying multivariable calculus at the age of 14--had indifferent handwriting. I like bubble handwriting-- I think it can be quite beautiful-- and only wish that I could achieve it.
I particularly like the way the curves of the letters tend to resemble river meanders, especially the s's (your first and third examples seem to me to show this fairly clearly).
Take two points a and b connected by a stretch of river of length L, where L is greater than the straight-line distance from a to b. I would argue that the bubble style is therefore a naturally optimized style, in that it arguably tends to minimize both the total energy output to produce the letter s and the maximum force exerted at any point in that production (the 'random walk' property is new to me from this link and I don't know how, or if, it could be connected to handwriting). I'm not trying to be harsh, gallusgallus, but I think that because you have this hypothesis that intelligence correlates with handwriting, it is unfair for you to allow your students to submit handwritten work to you anymore.
Some believe that the roots of today's Japanese love of kawaii that saturates its contemporary pop culture are to be found in this cutesy writing fad (e.g.
When I was in seventh grade, it was the style for girls to keep notebooks for one another, which we'd trade off between classes.
In the same way that women of the early twentieth century prided themselves on beautiful penmanship, we prided ourselves on our bubbles. But times changed, and we moved on, and by the time we reached college I would be willing to bet that almost all of us had stopped using bubble letters. The only way in which I might -- might -- agree with your original hypothesis is in suggesting that most young women eventually move on from bubble writing. Personal anecdote: My handwriting is basically the same as your first example, and I'm significantly above average intelligence.
I've been teaching first year labs to students all fighting each other to get into med school. I also agree with Ashley801 that if you're going to stereotype your students based on handwriting you really should be having them type their assignments. I have to second the suggestion that gallusgallus stop grading handwritten papers, or at least to constantly do mental checks: am I being fair? When I was a kid, the bubble-writing was actually a cool font we developed where all the letters looked like balloons. This might also be an example of a very human tendency to find patterns where there are none (this would be called an illusory correlation). However, I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see some sort of pattern emerge based on where people went to school.
Ask MetaFilter is a question and answer site that covers nearly any question on earth, where members help each other solve problems. WOODLAND, Maine — If the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword, then Ricky Schmitt Jr.


The Woodland Consolidated School seventh-grader was just named the grade seven Grand National Handwriting Champion in the Zaner-Bloser annual competition. Simply put, in this day of texting, Bluetooth and Skype-based communication, 13-year-old Schmitt has the best and most legible cursive writing out of all grade seven students in the country.
Zaner-Bloser, a wholly owned subsidiary of Highlights for Children, is a publisher of research-based reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary and handwriting programs, and annually awards one Grand National Handwriting Championship each in grades one through eight.Story continues below advertisement.
Before winning the Grand National Championship, Schmitt won the state championship and then was named one of 16 national winners.
In addition, the school’s Mackenzie Blackstone took top state handwriting honors for grade one students in Maine. Schmitt, who enjoys video games when not studying, is an honors student and school math league champion.
Where he is now is $1,250 richer, thanks to the $250 cash prize for the national title and a $1,000 prize for taking the top grand national spot.
Schmitt’s grade seven teacher, David Sterris, was awarded a Zaner-Bloser gift certificate for school supplies and an all-expenses-paid trip to the International Reading Association annual convention in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month. Sterris passed the trip on to Cheryl Hallowell, the Woodland grade two teacher who gave Schmitt his champion penmanship start. To enter the contest, Schmitt submitted a sample of his writing and a short explanation of why it’s important to be able to write legibly.
Having a state and grand national winner in her school speaks volumes for its faculty, Schloeman said, who noted the school has had three state winners in past years. While stressing the importance of good penmanship, Sterris said it is not to the exclusion of technology. Students at the Woodland school are equipped with iBook computers and use them extensively in their classes. Schmitt, who will be honored at a school assembly in the next week, is as yet undecided on his career path, but does have plans for that prize money. Well I went back 20 pages on here and didn't see a collective post for peoples handwriting samples. I had no trouble whatsoever reading everyone's handwriting, after seeing these examples I am almost too embarrassed to post mine, but here goes.
Also being able to write in a fair-hand is still looked as a sign of literacy in many countries. I find my own handwriting (which is atrocious) even varies dependent on how I am feeling at the time.
I didn't see a huge correlation between chosen handwriting style and ability in young kids. Unfortunately, they also made up a disproportionate fraction of those cheating on the homework.
Almost all of the detected homework cheating was simple direct copying of another person's work, down to duplicated punctuation and spelling errors. Girls who adopt bubble handwriting tend to me more organized and have better attention spans and thus will get better grades. We were the children of parents with advanced degrees in science, of engineers and of doctors, and as such were expected to do as well as our parents or better. Now think of all the ways of bending and folding this segment of river into a smooth curve without changing its length or detaching it from its end points. This is part of why orchestras started having prospective members audition behind a screen. Our handwriting was bubbly, and we dotted our i's with hearts or circles, and we decorated everything with sparkly glitter pens. It wasn't because we were too smart for that particular style of handwriting, but that we had grown up and so had the world around us. There might be something to be said about people who maintain a style that has long since fallen out of favor. Both my mother and I have the same story - our 'natural' handwriting is a thin, sloping cursive that's nigh-on impossible to read.
My cursive is illegible to anyone other than me, so it's what I use for taking notes and writing for myself, but I have the bubbly print when I need anything to be read by anyone else.
If someone judges you based on your handwriting, you work not only has to be good, it has to be good enough to overcome the initial prejudice. The Woodland Consolidated School seventh grader's handwriting has been deemed the best of all grade seven students in the country in the Zanner-Blosser annual handwriting contest. This is basically what the Palmer Method is about, using your arm to write and the hand to simply hold the instrument. Of late, I write in cursive mostly for my own notes and journals, so that's the most important thing. I really like it, although I think a smaller italic nib might help the postal workers read it! And yes, much to the pain of my professors, I write to save paper when I take dozens of pages of notes. Not my best, hell its on brown roll paper towel from the locker room and written on a table while standing, but represents my hand pretty well. My handwriting veers into bubbly territory, yet I am wholly capable of meeting your arbitrary intelligence requirements. Suppose in addition you are in a social environment where smart people (girls?) are likely to be relatively isolated socially, because of ostracism or other reasons. So, the habit of taking notes is easier to keep up for those fast writers than the slow ones. Let's discuss the loss of the Palmer method, the way that cursive is being phased out in schools as unnecessary in the 21st century, peer pressure, gender differences, hell, peer pressure as related to gender differences in handwriting and so on and on and on.
This leads to a sort of feedback loop in which your initial prejudice inevitably leads to more evidence to support it. You will then tend to have a correlation in the early years between good students and neat handwriting.


The ones who cared about handwriting would experiment with whatever style was fashionable (bubbly, mixed case, hearts with i's), and the ones who didn't care had non-bubbly writing. So maybe being less preoccupied with image is a sign of high intelligence--but it's not a sure thing, since you could easily cultivate an air of not caring. Among all such paths, the sine-generated curve has three interesting properties: It is the path of minimal bending stress, it is the path of minimal variance in direction, and it is the path representing the most likely random walk. But even if it weren't, even if 99 out of every 100 bubblers were morons, I think you would probably still be (maybe unconsciously) biased against the 100th bubbler.
The seminal study on this is Yamane Kazuma's Hentai shojo moji no kenkyu or Anomalous Female Teenage Handwriting. In the years since seventh grade we'd discovered a thousand other diversions: rock music, boys, the odd bit of green herbal matter. At school we both got into severe trouble about our handwriting (in my case 'either improve your handwriting or you will fail your A-levels'), and both adopted a non-cursive 'bubble' style because the shapes of the letters seem clearer. I was already handicapped in the being-taken-seriously department by being small, cute, and female, and so I changed my writing style. Girls who want to be taken seriously often feel the pressure to distance themselves from the stereotype--precisely why my own handwriting changed.
You're essentially starting a little bit behind the people who don't suffer from the prejudice, and have to make up more ground. In order to enjoy all the features of our site, we recommended you upgrade to a newer, more secure browser. I didn't come by this naturally, I worked very hard studying the Palmer Method to improve my writing. This is a shade of purple, by the way, but it doesn't seem to show that way in the picture. I am by no means an expert, but I did spend a lot of time with the Palmer method so if anyone has any questions on improving or just changing style I can try to help! In such a case, smart girls will be less subject to the social enforcement of bubbly writing, because they are less socially networked generally.
I'm not even 100% sure that bubbly writing takes longer for most people, but I've observed this in classes. In other words, there's a whole lot more that goes into any person's handwriting than intelligence, so honestly, at best this is way too simplistic. Actually, there was also a subgroup that didn't know how to write in that style, but wanted to, and so had a sort of in-between writing that was meant to be bubbly but was more narrow. Handwritten notes had fallen by the wayside, and bubble writing was a distant memory akin to slap bracelets and t-shirt clips.
I didn't actively train myself to write in a new way, but over time I drifted away from a rounded, print style to a more neutral, cursive one.
Also, I often couldn't tell the gender of the student based on their hand writing (I checked at one point because I was curious to see if it was possible). I knew that bubbly writing is associated with ditziness or airheadedness, unfairly or not, and didn't want to be judged based on it. I guess that's what happens when you quit using any hand-held instruments about 10-15 years ago and use a keyboard for everything. Hell, if that's bad, I just received a new razor that I couldn't even make out where it came from! So smart people (girls) will be less likely to have bubbly handwriting, because they were less subject to the social pressures that enforced bubbly handwriting. I was part of a group of girls that liked to write each other notes in different styles of writing, so for a short time I had really bubbly handwriting. Overall, my handwriting is smallish, angular, with connections between letters where it makes sense.
There's one specific style of writing which I've only seen from Chinese students but besides that, it's all stereotyping with about the level of accuracy you'd expect from that (not great).
For the same reason, I've never dyed my hair blonde, even though I've tried just about every other color.
Also, that is not my thoughtlessly taking notes hand, but when I write letters I use this style. Fortunatly my address was on a printed label so it got to me just fine, but I did have to open it to see what it was to know where it came from. I realize that you are not making the broad assumption that bubbly writing=dumb, and (I don't think) this solution does either. Translating that into a broad assertion bubble writing = dumbness is pretty tricky as it leads to a tentative conclusion that handwriting styles denote intelligence level, so what handwriting indicated above average intelligence? Six years later, a lot of them are in graduate school, medical school, or have finished law degrees. Ten years later, all of us have advanced degrees or are working towards them (law, biology, medical, education, computer science), so I think we're fairly smart. You can install it on any computer, even if you can't install applications, and it will ensure your computer stays secure and that you can still visit our website. Given that even spelling is a difficult criteria to judge intelligence by, I've a hard time accepting what your handwriting looks like is any indication. In a time when the SATs had a maximum of 1600 points, many of the people I knew got over 1500 points. Our AP classes covered multivariable calculus, so I'm pretty sure they didn't have trouble with it in college.



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