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Mehrabian's communication research
Professor Albert Mehrabian's communications model
Professor Albert Mehrabian has pioneered the understanding of communications since the 1960s. He received his PhD from Clark University and in l964 commenced an extended career of teaching and research at the University of California, Los Angeles. He currently devotes his time to research, writing, and consulting as Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA. Mehrabian's work featured strongly (mid-late 1900s) in establishing early understanding of body language and non-verbal communications. Aside from his many and various other fascinating works, Mehrabian's research provided the basis for the widely quoted and often much over-simplified statistic for the effectiveness of spoken communications. Here is a more precise (and necessarily detailed) representation of Mehrabian's findings than is typically cited or applied: * 7% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken. * 38% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said). * 55% of message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression. The following is a more common and over-simplified interpretation of Mehrabian's findings, which is quoted and applied by many people to cover all communications - often without reference to Mehrabian, although Mehrabian's work is the derivation. It is understandable that many people prefer short concise statements, however if you must use the simplified form of the Mehrabian formula you must explain the context of Mehrabian's findings. As a minimum you must state that the formula applies to communications of feelings and attitudes. Here's the overly-simplistic interpretation. Where you see or use it, qualify it, in proper context. * 7% of meaning in the words that are spoken.

* 38% of meaning is paralinguistic (the way that the words are said). * 55% of meaning is in facial expression.
Other important contextual and qualifying details are:
Mehrabian did not intend the statistic to be used or applied freely to all communications and meaning. Mehrabian provides this useful explanatory note (from his own website, retrieved 29 May 2009): "...Inconsistent communications - the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages: My findings on this topic have received considerable attention in the literature and in the popular media. 'Silent Messages' [Mehrabian's key book] contains a detailed discussion of my findings on inconsistent messages of feelings and attitudes (and the relative importance of words vs. nonverbal cues) on pages 75 to 80. Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable. Also see references 286 and 305 in Silent Messages - these are the original sources of my findings..." (Albert Mehrabian, source, retrieved 29 May 2009) The 'Mehrabian formula' (7%/38%/55%) was established in situations where there was incongruence between words and expression. That is, where the words did not match the facial expression: specifically in Mehrabian's research people tended to believe the expression they saw, not the words spoken.  

tips on explaining context and application of mehrabian's formula Notwithstanding all this background and qualification, Mehrabian's model has become one of the most widely referenced statistics in communications. You will continue to see it referenced, and you will probably use it yourself, not always in its purest form, and not always with reference to its originator. The essence of the model - even when used in overly simplistic...
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