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The Influence of Alcohol on Handwriting [Ueber die Beeinflussung der Schrift durch den Alkohol]. (Psychologische Arbeiten, Bd. iii, H. 4, 1901.) Mayer, Martin

  • Havelock Ellis

Previous investigations have shown—in harmony, indeed, with daily experience—that alcohol renders more difficult the perception of sensory impressions and the associated mental activity, while, on the other hand, it makes voluntary operations easier. At the same time, in apparent apposition with the latter result, alcohol has little or no influence in increasing work done with the dynamometer or ergograph. In order to follow out the workings of alcohol in a field where its finer influence could be precisely traced and measured, Mayer has investigated its effects on handwriting in accordance with the exact methods of Diehl. In one series of experiments the dose of absolute alcohol taken was 30 grammes, in another series 60 grammes. The results are recorded in full detail in this paper. It was found that alcohol has a slowing influence on writing movements; in small doses the pauses are shortened and the pressure increased; in large doses the pauses tend more to be increased, while the pressure is decreased; there is no recognisable influence on the way of writing. These results are recorded in detail with the precision that the instrumental study of handwriting now renders possible. Incidentally, Mayer introduces an interesting discussion of the resemblance of alcoholic intoxication to mania, which has often been pointed out. In both there is diminished attention, a flood of ideas with tendency to sound associations, an inclination to arrogance, and increased facility in obeying impulses. As soon, however, as we begin to inquire into the details of psychomotor activity (as may be done by reference to Gross's study of the precise characteristics of the handwriting in mania) profound differences may be traced. Common to both states is the shortening of the pauses, the release of movement becoming easier. In mania, however, there is greater excitability, the shortening becoming more marked in the course of writing, while in intoxication the pauses soon tend to be increased. Movement itself is in both conditions slowed, but in mania with very great rapidity. In mania, also, the writing is from the first large, and tends to become larger as writing is continued, while in intoxication there is no change in this respect. Pressure, again, is much more increased in mania, and rises as writing is continued. The finer variations do not disappear as they do in intoxication, hut are still more marked than normally, and changes in pressure occur with undue swiftness. On the whole the phenomena of intoxication, as evidenced by the handwriting, present a picture of increased excitability succeeded by paralysis, while in mania no symptoms of paralysis appear at any stage in the writing process, but, instead, an increasing excitability overcoming a preliminary tendency to inhibition of movement.

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: -
  • EISSN: 2514-9946
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The Influence of Alcohol on Handwriting [Ueber die Beeinflussung der Schrift durch den Alkohol]. (Psychologische Arbeiten, Bd. iii, H. 4, 1901.) Mayer, Martin

  • Havelock Ellis
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