Blog post

Educational myths (*4)

Published on
May 29, 2019

The myth: 93 % of our communication is non verbal

It is a myth I like, because it justifies my dynamic arm-waving, face-using way of teaching.

I love to move, laugh, walk and indicate things, so my non-verbal expression is high and as such I am more effective than a more static teacher (according to the myth and myself....).

At the same time I love to advise to students to follow a theatre course, as they will increase the diversity in their non-verbal behaviour and as such their effectiveness.

On the other hand, the myth frustrates me: according to it, only 7% of all the words I use during my lectures will have an impact. So if a give a short presentation of 30 minutes, I should have done it in 2.1 minutes, because that’s the impact I have, the content students will really remember.


Time to do a short research into the origin of these figures.

The data originate from research done by Albert Mehrabian (by the way, the original database seems to be ‘lost’), but his research question was not about communication in general, but on communication of feelings.

That seems to be more logical, telling with a ‘dark’ face that you are very happy will not give the impression that your words are true! So your facial expression is much more influential.

The following YouTube video tells it all:

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I am actually not at all disappointed, as the good news is: our (my) words really matter!

The fact that I love teaching does not need to be expressed in words, students just can look at my non-verbal behaviour in the classroom and they will understand.

  Next time: boys are better in maths than girls

* (Jongens zijn slimmer dan meisjes, Pedro de Bruyckere en Casper Hulshof, 2013).