Is 93% of communication nonverbal? Busting the Mehrabian Myth

This myth was proposed by @lerenhoezo. To be honest this is one I didn’t know myself that well. What is the myth about? Wikipedia can help:

Albert Mehrabian (born 1939 in the Armenian family in Iran, currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA), has become known best by his publications on the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages. His findings on inconsistent messages of feelings and attitudes have been quoted throughout human communication seminars worldwide, and have also become known as the 7%-38%-55% rule.”

What does this rule mean? Well in communication we have 3 elements and meaning comes to us through

  • Your words 7%
  • Your tone of voice 38%
  • Your body language 55%.

Just like when we discussed Multiple Intelligences, the person who can be regarded as the originator of the theory, dislikes how the theory is used in everyday life.  Professor Mehrabian was interviewed on BBC radio a few weeks after the following video was released, and he was asked, “whether 93% of communication is nonverbal?” He answered, “absolutely not. And whenever I hear that misquote of my findings I cringe because it should be obvious to anybody who would use any amount of common sense that that’s not a correct statement!”

9 thoughts on “Is 93% of communication nonverbal? Busting the Mehrabian Myth

  1. LS! De eer om deze Mehrabian regel naar het rijk der fabeltjes te verwijzen, komt toe aan Anne Karpf. Ze schrijft er over in haar boek “The human voice” (2007) Sterk heb ik het gevoel dat omdat ze vrouw, links en feministisch is dat niemand haar die eer gunt. Anders werd dit feit wel wat vaker vermeld.

  2. […] At the beginning and end of the study, both groups of students were evaluated for their ability to recognize other people’s emotions in photos and videos. The students were shown 48 pictures of faces that were happy, sad, angry or scared, and asked to identify their feelings. (note by me, this sound a bit Mehrabian, doesn’t it 🙂 ) […]

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