Communication is probably more than 7% verbal

“Have you ever heard the adage that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal, i.e. body language and vocal variety? You probably have, and if you have any sense at all, you have ignored it.” Philip Yaffe wades into this one. The first two pages provide a concise summary of the 1967 studies that produced this 7% figure:

Subjects were asked to listen to a recording of a woman’s voice saying the word “maybe” three different ways to convey liking, neutrality, and disliking. They were also shown photos of the woman’s face conveying the same three emotions. They were then asked to guess the emotions heard in the recorded voice, seen in the photos, and both together. The result? The subjects correctly identified the emotions 50 percent more often from the photos than from the voice.

In the second study, subjects were asked to listen to nine recorded words, three meant to convey liking (honey, dear, thanks), three to convey neutrality (maybe, really, oh), and three to convey disliking (don’t, brute, terrible). Each word was pronounced three different ways. When asked to guess the emotions being conveyed, it turned out that the subjects were more influenced by the tone of voice than by the words themselves.

The original studies behind the figure look interesting for what they actually tried to do rather than the bullshit claims that resulted.


Mehrabian, A., & Wiener, M. (1967). Decoding of inconsistent communications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 6(1), 109–114.

Mehrabian, A., & Ferris, S. R. (1967). Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 31(3), 248–252.

No reasoning task is too irritating to be completed

Consider the sentence: “No head injury is too trivial to be ignored.” What does it mean?

Now consider: “No missile is too small to be banned.”

Go back to the first sentence – are you sure it means what you thought it did?

See Wason, P. C., & Reich, S. S. (1979). A Verbal Illusion. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 31(4), 591–597.