Characterology is derived from Greek. It is a pseudoscience that proposes a method of character reading, dating from the 1920s, that attempted to read a person’s character and intelligence by their appearance, expression and build. Now considered part of scientific racism. It claimed to combine physiognomy, reconstructed phrenology and amplified pathognomy, with ethnology, sociology and anthropology.
It was developed by L. Hamilton McCormick in the 1920s. Characterology claimed to produce a scientific system to assess intelligence and character. No studies were published to support this claim. Modern scholars propose a link with his racial theories and the rise of the Third Reich in Germany.
It claimed to resolve flaws in the phrenological systems of Franz Joseph Gall and Johann Spurzheim. McCormick claimed that his ideas improved upon them. McCormick suggested the following uses for characterology: advice for parents and educators, guidance in military promotions, evaluating thinking patterns, assessing business associates, career counseling, and even selecting whom to marry.
His writing reflected the assumption that white features were favored and preferred. These racist ideas were widely accepted by scholars and investigators at the time. For Ex: Stephen Jay Gould, in his book, The Mismeasure of Man tells the story of how a well intentioned, but racially biased, scientist mis-measured skulls of different ethnic groups. The results appeared to show greater brain capacity of what was considered, at that time, white or Caucasian features. Gould re-did the original experiment and found no difference.
In her article Characterology: Hapsburg Empire to Third Reich, Ahrens states that
A popular science around the turn of the century, characterology, is used to exemplify the debate between adherents of biological inheritance and those of environmental adaptation in the early modern period. The paradigm which this position points to is then elucidated with reference to other visible scientific debates of the period between the demise of the Hapsburg Empire and the emergence of Nazi psychotherapy.