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Real or Fake? Handwritten Signatures and the Document Examiner

Picture a name quickly scribbled on a piece of paper. How often is it seemingly unrecognizable? And yet to the trained eye of a forensic document examiner, those handwritten signatures can provide important clues in a criminal investigation.

In a paper published in Law, Probability and Risk, CSAFE researchers from University of California, Irvine explore how document examiners compare signatures.

As you can imagine, deciphering the name proves difficult enough. Now try to determine if that signature was actually genuine or merely a copycat.

CSAFE co-director Hal Stern and his team conducted a study to investigate this problem using 123 participant signatures. The goal was to determine if more complex signatures affected the way an examiner makes comparisons.

Researchers found the answer to be yes. Document examiners tend to make stronger and more reliable conclusions when comparing high complexity signatures.

Perceptions of signature complexity can offer important new insights. For example, they can explain more about reliability and reproducibility of results. Advancements in CSAFE handwriting research are leading to the development of more objective measures in signature examination.

This project is a strong example of CSAFE’s commitment to collaboration, both with partner institutions and the practitioner community. Learn more about the benefits of these partnerships in a CSAFE news article from March 2018.