Busting the Mehrabian Myth!

The story behind the video…

One Friday afternoon back in March we had an enquiry from a global company who wanted to get an important message about compliance out to their staff. They were thinking about using a short video animation for this, and they wondered if this was something we could do for them…

Maybe it was the spring air that did it, but we found ourselves agreeing to a further discussion, despite confessing to the client that we’d never made an animation before. Somehow the idea had taken root, so we spent the weekend researching how to go about it.

In the end, that project didn’t come off, but we had the bit between our teeth, and we wanted to try making an animation for ourselves. So we went ahead and put together a studio – camera, lights, tripods, sound-recording equipment, top quality whiteboard and pens. We installed Final Cut Express on our iMac, and we were ready to go.

Then, as is so often the way, we got sidetracked by other work, so we put the video project on ice. Strangely, though, it kept popping into conversations, and people kept asking us if we could make them a video. We told them we hadn’t made one yet, but it didn’t seem to put them off… so we set ourselves a deadline and a challenge: to see if we could communicate a fairly complex and abstract idea in a 3-minute animated cartoon.

We chose Martin’s article from 2007, ‘Mehrabian Nights: a tall tale about communication’ as a starting point. It’s been a hot topic in the presentation skills blogosphere in recent weeks, and we wanted to see if we could make a different kind of contribution to the debate.

We’d love to know what you think of it – and if you can see ways in which videos like this could help you, or any of your contacts, get messages across.


  1. Love your “Busting the Mehrabian Myth” video. Any thoughts about doing another debunker?

    Many trainers still use Ebbighaus’s research from over 100 years ago – 80% of what you learn you forget in 30 days. This research is quoted and quoted and quoted…. Ebbinghaus’s research was on himself (sample size of 1) and using a list of nonsense words (no context or meaning to the learner). So why do trainers still quote this? Tradition is my guess….


  1. […] written many great posts on the absurdity of the 7-38-55 figures. And for a fun debunking of the Mehrabian myth see the animated video created by Martin Shovel and Martha […]

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