The Scribble and the "Anatomy" of the Line

The scribble and the 

The psychological interpretation of scribbles is an excellent field for the study of everyday psychopathology.

​Scribbles are everywhere: on the side of a notebook, on benches, on playground paving stones, on walls and in public bathrooms.

According to Freud: „to the keen observer they (symptomatic actions) often betray everything, occasionally even more than he cares to know. He who is familiar with its application sometimes feels like King Solomon, who according to the Oriental legend, understood the language of animals” (Freud, 1901/1960 p. 162).

The scribble is also one of drawing analysis’s most exciting areas!


Because it was not created with the intention of representing something, it just came about, while the person making it was doing something else. This is the reason why scribbles can be very honest and they can express contents of the unconscious.

How do we analyze a spontaneous scribble?

The most reliable methods are the analyses of association and the anatomy of the line. Let’s consider these in turn.

(1) Association

In order to solve the scribble ”puzzle” you need to know the circumstances during which the scribble was made (the situation). You need to know what the scribbler was talking about while scribbling, and the scribbler’s own associations. Ask:

  • What do you think of when you see the scribble? 
  • What is it similar to?
  • What do you think it’s about?

(2) "Anatomy" of the line

The other tool is the anatomy of the line (Vass, 2011). The line can contain coded emotions and psychological concepts.

We always examine:

  1. how the line starts, 
  2. how it continues,
  3. how it ends?

According to psychological research:· lines illustrating positive words contain more curves, negative ones in contrast are more angular,· the number of angles and curves are a function of emotional intensity,· we pair irregular, zig-zag and sharp lines with anger, hate, pain,· the rising line: strength, energy, ambition; the descending line indicates weakness, listlessness, depression

Of course, you cannot directly translate these observations into interpretations as if you were reading a dictionary, however, they can be a good guideline to understanding scribbles!So how exactly is this done in practice? This will be revealed in the next email. You will just have to wait till then! :))

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