LINGUIST List 9.230

Sun Feb 15 1998

Sum: Statistics on Nonverbal Communication

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. George Elgin, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sum: Statistics on Nonverbal Communication

Message 1: Sum: Statistics on Nonverbal Communication

Date: Sat, 14 Feb 1998 10:34:27 -0500
From: George Elgin, Suzette Haden Elgin <>
Subject: Sum: Statistics on Nonverbal Communication

Some time ago I posted a query; I was looking for a source for either
or both of the claims that (a) 65% of all information in English
speech is not in the words but in the NVC and (b) the same thing holds
for at least 90% of all *emotional* information. (That is, information
such as "I respect/don't respect you" or "I intend/don't intend to
deceive you" and so on). Almost every response I got said something
roughly like "That's in my grad school notes, too, but without a
source; when you find it, I'd like to have the citation."

Here's the closest thing to a source -- still woefully inadequate --
that I've been able to locate:

 "The separate effects of verbal, vocal, and facial components
of attitude were assessed by Mehrabian and
 Wiener (1967) and by Mehrabian and Ferris (1967). Taken
together, the results of these studies suggest that
 the combined effect of these variables is a weighted sum of
their independent effects expressed in terms of
 the following equation:

 A/total = .07 A/verbal + .38 A/vocal + .55 A/facial

 where A/total is the attitude inferred on a degree-of-liking
scale from the three-channel communication,
 A/verbal is the attitude communicated in the verbal componnt
only on the same scale, and so on."

 This is on pp. 84-85 of Nonverbal Comunication: Survey,
Theory, and Research; by Daniel Druckman, Richard M. Rozelle, and
James C. Baxter; Sage Publications 1982.

 The articles cited are: Mehrabian, A. and M. Wiener (1967),
"Decoding of inconsistent communications," Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 6:109-114; Mehrabian, A. and S.R. Ferris (1967),
"Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels,
" Journal of Consulting Psychology, 31:248-252.

 Also recommended (along with a batch of unpublished
manuscripts I won't list because they're unlikely to be findable) is
DePaulo et al., 1980, "Detecting deception: Modality effects," in
L. Wheeler (ed.), Review of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 1;
Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

 My own initial interest was sparked by a NY Times piece
(4/8/86) by Daniel Goleman titled "Studies Point to Power of Nonverbal
Signals" reporting on research by Peter Blanck , which included this
sentence: "How a judge gives his instructions to a jury was perceived
to double the likelihood that the jury would deliver a verdict of
guilty or not guilty -- even when on the surface the judge's demeanor
seemed perfectly impartial."
 I went next to the report of this research -- which I
recommend to you; it is "The Appearance of Justice: Judges' Verbal and
Nonverbal Behavior in Criminal Jury Trials," by Peter David Blanck,
Robert Rosenthal, and LaDoris Hazzard Cordell; Standard Law Review
38:1 (November 1985), pp. 89-164. Blanck and associates have
continued to pursue this line of research over the years in additional
articles; excellent work, in my opinion. It turns out that much, if
not all, of the NVC material that is truly useful in my work is in the
judical/legal literature, or in the literature of space and aviation
medicine (where the need to judge emotional status and reliability of
pilots/astronauts from voice alone can obviously be critical,).

 Useful sources, despite the dates:

 "Using Communication Cues to Evaluate Proespective
Jurors During the Voir Dire," by David Suggs and Bruce Dennis Sales;
in Arizona Law Review Vol. 20 (1978), pp. 629-642
 "Judges' Nonverbal Behavior in Jury Trials: A Threat
to Judicial Impartiality," in Virginia Law Review, Vol. 61 (1975), pp.
 "Invariances in the Acoustic Expression of Emotion
During Speech," by Leda Cosmides; Journal of Experimental Psychology,
Vol. 9 (1983), pp. 864-881.
 "Vocal Indicators of Psychological Stress," by Harry
Hollien; Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 347 (1980),
pp. 47-72.

 (You will all be familiar with the work of Paul Ekman).

 Throughout the literature, everyone appears to me to be taking
for granted -- as fact -- that at least for American English,
nonverbal communication carries far more of the message, especially
the emotional message, than the words. I agree with that presumption;
I think it's absolutely correct. But no one cites sources for their
presumption. I had hoped that Linguist-List would be able to fill the
gap; I thought perhaps it would turn out to be back to Jakobson, or
some such eminence. I continue to be willing to be enlightened on the
subject; please just write me directly at the address below if you can
provide information.

 Suzette Haden Elgin

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