How to read a person's character from their absent-minded squigglings
Stop. Read no further. Go away, get bored, and do some doodles on a blank sheet of paper. For doodles - according to some graphologists at any rate - may hold the key to your personality. The underlying idea of graphology is simple: writing is an automatic action controlled by your subconscious. Whether you loop your letters or angle them, how you join them together, how you spread them over the blank page, indeed every tiny twitch of your writing fingers may betray something of your inner turmoil.

While the finer points of graphology have never stood up to hard scientific testing, its basic premise is hard to deny - as anyone who has ever received a letter written in scrawling block capitals in green ink will confirm. So while we would not go so far as to claim absolute validity for what follows, it may be worth taking some notice of it.

Doodles done then while I was boring you with the last paragraph? Then on with the interpretation.

The first thing to look for is the position of the doodle of the page: extraverts doodle on the middle of the paper, showing their need to be at the centre of things. Doodling at the left is sign of worry and fear for what the future may hold; doodling on the right shows impulsiveness; high doodles betray impracticality and doodles at the foot of the paper warn of depression.

Next comes pressure: turn the paper over and hold it up to the light. Can you see a firm impression made by your pen or pencil? Assertive people push hard with their pens; sensitive, submissive doodlers doodle softly.

On to your inner spikiness: curvy doodles are a sign of sociability, angular doodles, they say, are a sign of detachment and poor interpersonal skills.

Now look for regularity and patterns: the more disciplined your doodle, the better organised you are likely to be - though squares and triangles, in the absence of curves, may indicate a lack of emotion and sensitivity. Take care also if you have been producing those obsessively tidy, walled- in, cross-hatched, knotted-together doodles that can only be interpreted as showing a need to break out. And while piles of bricks may indicate regularity and discipline, beware if they are inverted pyramids, all balancing tenuously on a small base. That's a sure sign that you fear that your world is about to topple over.

So far it seems to make fair sense. The doodlological assertion that arrows, staircases and ladders are signs of ambition also seems rational, until you begin to wonder how to tell whether a ladder is going up or down, and whether the arrow is "Collect pounds 200" or "Go to Jail".

Pictures and faces bring further problem areas. Pictures of food may indicate hunger or over-eating, they say, while attractive faces may show sociability and ugly faces indicate suspicion and bad temper. After that, the theory of "You are what you draw" may become ever more facile: houses indicate domesticity, hearts show romanticism, planes and cars a desire to travel.

A good deal of research has been done on the sex of any people seen in drawings. Results are inconclusive on whether people are more likely to draw pictures of their own or the opposite sex, but male adolescents have been shown to be more likely to draw nude women than nude men. Putting it all together, we arrive at the following definitive rules for doodle interpretation:

1. When interpreting other people's doodles, speak in broad generalities mixed with subtle personal insights. "You feel constricted by the pressures other people bring to bear on you" is always a good line.

2. Never show anyone else any of your own doodles.

(For those with Internet access, more doodles may be found at: http://www.annakoren.com/doodles.html)

Doodles of cats, fish and other small creatures may be a sign of a protective nature

Repetitive doodles show concentration, perseverance and a patient nature

Regular geometric shapes indicate a desire for organisation - but watch out for unstable piles of bricks

Abstract squiggles may be a sign of tension and poor concentration.

Bars and cross-hatching may hide a feeling of constriction and a desire to escape

Arrows, ladders and stairs all point towards ambition and a need for achievement

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