Karen Machover provides an in depth explanation of what each aspect of a person drawing can say about their personality in her book Personality projection in the drawing of a human figure. Here is a summary of some of the characteristics and their possible analysis. How each part of the body is treated has different significance. Other features such as clothing and miscellaneous characteristics are included in the full analysis but not here. These are the ones that are considered the most important in the analysis.
Head:The head is the center for intellectual power, social balance, and control over impulses. A disproportionate head suggests that the subject is having difficulty in one of those areas. Disproportionate head can also be drawn by someone who has brain damage, severe headaches, or other sensitivity of the head.
- Large head: paranoid, narcissistic, intellectually righteous, or vain; anything having to do with a large ego
- Timing: people who draw it last show disturbances with interpersonal relationships
- Neck: Since the neck often represent the connection between the head and the body an underemphasis may represent one feeling a disconnect between these two things and could suggest schizophrenia. However, underemphasis could also suggest feelings of physical inadequacy.
- Omitting: an omitting of facial features is an expression of an avoidance of social problems
- Eyes: reveals inner images of the self
- Emphasis: suspicious of the outside world (paranoid)
- Detail: concern with social functions; a male who draws eyelashes shows homosexual tendencies
- Eyes Closed/No Pupil: people who want to shut out the world or emotionally immature
- Piercing eyes: paranoid schizophrenic
- Eyebrow: an emphasis on good or bad grooming (trim of bushy eyebrows respectively)
- Nose: sexual symbol; emphasis indicates sexual difficulty, sexual immaturity, inferiority, or other sexual insufficiencies.
- Chin: if it is not included, it may be a way of compensating for weakness, indecision, or a fear of responsibility; it can be interpreted as having a strong drive to be socially forceful and dominant
- Lips: Girls who draw cupid-bow lips are considered sexually precocious. Full lips on a male represents narcissism. People who draw something in the mouth (ex: toothpick) indicates oral erotic trends.
- Mouth: most often distorted in people with sexual difficulties
- Overemphasis: emphasized importance of food, profane language, and temper tantrums
- Teeth: sign of aggression
- Closed Mouth: shutting the mouth against something, wanting to keep something in, especially a homosexual experience
- Wide grinning mouth: seek approval
Hair: Messy hair may represent a feeling of immortality while more wavy and glamorous hair can mean a person is sexually immature.
Contact Features (legs, feet, arms, hands): The movement of contact features is an important element. The amount of movement of the features is suggested to decrease with age and is thought to represent the amount of contact one has with the outside world.
- Arms and hands: represent ego development and social adaptation (hands are the most commonly omitted features)
- Omitted: represents a complete withdrawal from the environment (schizophrenic). If a male omits a female’s arms, he has been rejected by his mother and unaccepted by females. If one omits hands, they are thought to have a lack of confidence in social contexts
- Shading: too vigorously shaded hands could indicate feelings of guilt in regard to aggressive impulses
- Placement (arms): extended arms represent a good relationship with the environment and/or spontaneity. If they are ‘wasted’ the individual could have a low sense of physical reality.
- Placement (hands): behind the back may represent glamor aspirations for girls, in the pocket could indicate withdrawal from society or feelings of guilt about masturbation.
- Fingers: fingers are especially important because of their connection with an individuals personal identity and are mostly used to represent levels of aggression. If they are over exaggerated they can be indicators of guilt. How long they are may represent levels of aggression, too long and the person is overly aggressive, too short they are reserved.
- Legs and Feet: interpreted as items that support and balance the body as well as movement of the body. Someone who is severely depressed and is not interested in moving may either seat their figure or even omit feet or legs. However, someone who is disturbed sexually may also refuse to show anything below the waist. People who under emphasize the legs may be scared of showing something and this can indicate homosexual panic. An overemphasized foot may indicate compensation for inadequacies sexually.
- Toes: often not included in drawings because of shoes, but if they are it is a sign of aggression. If a female shows painted toenails they may have heightened female aggression.
Machover, K. (1949). Personality projection: in the drawing of a human figure. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas Publisher.