Article

The 7% rule: fact, fiction, or misunderstanding

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Abstract

In 1971, Albert Mehrabian published a book Silent Messages, in which he discussed his research on non-verbal communication. He concluded that prospects based their assessments of credibility on factors other than the words the salesperson spoke---the prospects studied assigned 55 percent of their weight to the speaker's body language and another 38 percent to the tone and music of their voice. They assigned only 7 percent of their credibility assessment to the salesperson's actual words. Over the years, this limited experiment evolved to a belief that movement and voice coaches would be more valuable to teaching successful communication than speechwriters. In fact, in 2007 Allen Weiner published So Smart But… discussing how to put this principle to work in organizations.

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... Still other researchers diametrically opposed applying this research to public speaking, "the fact is Professor Mehrabian's research had nothing to do with giving speeches ... I have no doubt that the verbal (what you say) must dominate by a wide margin." [32] Among public speaking experts, the role of each speech factor is just as disputed as the relative contribution of different factors in effectiveness, as shown by our research survey in Sect. 4.3 of supplementary material. ...
Preprint
What makes speeches effective has long been a subject for debate, and until today there is broad controversy among public speaking experts about what factors make a speech effective as well as the roles of these factors in speeches. Moreover, there is a lack of quantitative analysis methods to help understand effective speaking strategies. In this paper, we propose E-ffective, a visual analytic system allowing speaking experts and novices to analyze both the role of speech factors and their contribution in effective speeches. From interviews with domain experts and investigating existing literature, we identified important factors to consider in inspirational speeches. We obtained the generated factors from multi-modal data that were then related to effectiveness data. Our system supports rapid understanding of critical factors in inspirational speeches, including the influence of emotions by means of novel visualization methods and interaction. Two novel visualizations include E-spiral (that shows the emotional shifts in speeches in a visually compact way) and E-script (that connects speech content with key speech delivery information). In our evaluation we studied the influence of our system on experts' domain knowledge about speech factors. We further studied the usability of the system by speaking novices and experts on assisting analysis of inspirational speech effectiveness.
... It is the body language that is used much, in another word it is the body speaking to the eyes rather than tongue speaking to the ears. These types of communication (the nonverbal) are a group of actions supporting those verbs, such as the tone of voice by which those verbs stated, then what others see as body language including facial expression and the level of loudness of voice [9,10]. Accordingly, the communication equation dwells of: ...
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... In human-human interactions, it has been shown that the majority of emotional content is communicated non-verbally, through visual cues (facial expression, pose, movement, etc.) and tone of voice [101,152]. The dominant mechanism for emotional communication is the face; this is exemplified by the fact that over 95% of the literature on human emotion have used faces as stimuli [38]. ...
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... A prominent folk myth misinterprets this research by Mehrabian and states that 93% of all communication is non-verbal, and only 7% of communication is verbal (as opposed to inconsistent single words without significant textual content as in the study). This widely cited misinterpretation is trivially disproved by the existence of textual forms of communication such as books, email and the internet (see [29] for full It continues to be stated 7% of attitude communication depends on the words spoken [23], gestures, facial expressions or the way we use our voice, play a more significant role during an interaction than its verbal counterpart [4]. ...
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... Mehrabian asserted that body language and tone of voice account for a much greater part of communication than the words spoken. While some more recent interpretations of that data suggest that those numbers are grossly exaggerated, or that the numbers only work in a limited context, it's still a widely accepted conceit that what you say can be considerably less important than how you say it (Thompson 2011;Yaffe 2011). ...
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