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Forensic Document Examiners’ Skill in Distinguishing Between Natural and Disguised Handwriting Behaviors

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Disguised handwriting is problematic for forensic document examiners (FDEs) and attracts higher misleading and inconclusive rates on authorship opinions than does genuine writing (Found B, Rogers D, International Graphonomics Society, 2005). There are currently no published empirical data on FDEs’ expertise in distinguishing between natural and disguised writing behavior. This paper reports on the skill of FDEs for determining the writing process of 140 pairs of natural and disguised writings and compares their results with those of a control group of laypeople. A significant difference was found between the examiner and lay group. FDEs’ expertise is characterized by their conservatism, where FDEs express a higher proportion of inconclusive opinions (23.1% for FDEs compared to 8.4% for the control group). This leads to the FDEs expressing a smaller percentage of misleading responses when calling writings as either naturally written or disguised (4.3% for FDEs compared with 12.2% for the control group).

Keywords: disguise; forensic handwriting examination; forensic science; handwriting; questioned document examination; validation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Handwriting Analysis and Research Laboratory, School of Human Biosciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria 3086, Australia.

Publication date: September 1, 2010


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