The statistic communications ‘experts’ keep getting wrong

If you hear someone say that the words someone says only accounts for 7 percent of the message, you’re not getting the full story.

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There’s only one problem: Those statistics are wrong. Completely wrong.

Their root comes from a 1960s study by a UCLA professor named Dr. Albert Mehrabian. But Mehrabian never intended for his research to be used—or misused—that way.

This slide is fascinating. It’s also really misleading.

Mehrabian’s study was very limited in scope—it looked only at single words, focused solely on positive or negative feelings, and didn’t include men—and yet, I see articles at least once a week touting these numbers as gospel, as if they have much broader implications than they actually do.

Had these communications “experts” taken the time to look at the original research (or simply look at Dr. Mehrabian’s Wikipedia page, which debunks this myth), they wouldn’t have made this mistake. So I can only conclude that communications professionals who use this data are ignorant, lazy, or willfully misusing this data to sound smarter than they are.

For example, I came across a video from Stanford University business professor Deborah Gruenfeld last week. I saw the video because it was a sponsored post on Twitter. Here’s the video description:

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