Authored by: Tim Wharton

The Routledge Handbook of Pragmatics

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415531412
eBook ISBN: 9781315668925
Adobe ISBN:


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According to Albert Mehrabian’s ‘7%-38%-55% Rule’ (1981), 55 per cent of the emotional information communicated in a given exchange is communicated via ‘body language’, 38 per cent via the words we say (intonation, affective tone of voice etc.) and only 7 per cent from the words themselves. While the accuracy of these claims has been criticised (Trimboli and Walker 1987), and, indeed, Mehrabian (2014) himself has gone on record as saying his results are often misrepresented, the so-called nonverbal dominance view of communication continues to play an important role in ethology, developmental psychology, Freudian psychoanalysis and other fields. The very existence of such a rule is at least suggestive. When it comes to the communication of affect, there is an assumption that the nonverbal dimension of human communication is at least as important as the verbal one, if not more so.

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