Nonverbal communication Studies

3 C's of Nonverbal CommunicationIf there were ever numbers associated with body language and nonverbal communication, 55, 38, and 7 would be it. People often refer to these numbers as the standard for understanding nonverbal communication and expressing its importance- specifically over the words being spoken.

How often have you heard someone say over 80% (or even 90%) of communication is body language or nonverbal? Perhaps even you might have said it, but do you know where it originates from?

The numbers represent the percentages of importance of varying communication channels have with the belief that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken.

Is that true? Well, yes and no.

Firstly, the history behind this often quoted, and equally often misunderstood magic set of percentages is often unknown, which I think happens to be the main reason it is not fully understood. The famous (at least in nonverbal communication circles!) researcher Albert Mehrabian is responsible for this percentage breakdown detailing the importance of nonverbal communication channels compared to verbal channels. Actually, it was two research studies (Mehrabian & Wiener, 1967 and Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967) combined that resulted in the 55/38/7 formula.

The Mehrabian and Ferris study actually consists of a predecessor formula to the 55/38/7 formula: 60/40. The 60/40 formula they created represents the comparison of importance between facial (60%) and vocal (40%) components in regards to a person's attitude.

The main issue here is, and similar to the general study of body language and nonverbal communication, is claiming something, such as a gesture or formula, is absolute and applies to every situation is false and inaccurate.

What does Mehrabian think of this?

He agrees!

The formula was created for a specific context- when the nonverbal channel and the verbal channel are incongruent (not matching). From his book Nonverbal Communication (page 108):

"When there are inconsistencies between attitudes communicated verbally and posturally, the postural component should dominate in determining the total attitude that is inferred."

So should you still quote the 55/38/7 percentage at the next dinner party to show your nonverbal communication knowledge? Should you include an asterisk? Well, what I do when I mention the 55/38/7 numbers, I clearly state this applies to certain situations and importantly, it should not be used as a deciding factor to try and understand the situation. A proper analysis needs to occur to fully grasp what the person's current emotions are at that moment.


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Q&A

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Case studies of nonverbal communication?

Case studies on nonverbal communication can be found in a local
library. Detailed documents are found in the research section.

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can non-verbal communication be studied in isolation?discuuss? | Yahoo Answers

Hmm, it would be hard, since you would only find non-verbal communication between two people. So if you have isolated someone, and put them by themselves, they would have no need to perform this communication.
However, if you have two or more people communicating, you will see them performing both verbal and non-verbal communication. The N-V gives additional meaning and message to the verbal communication. So again I would say that it is hard to separate it.
I guess the only way to study N-V in isolation would be to set up some type of environment where the people could only communic…


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