Communication Stories

Wellington Defeated?

It is said that on the evening of June 18, 1815 a man stood in the tower of England’s Winchester Cathedral gazing anxiously out to sea. At last he found what he was looking for – a ship sending a signal by use of lights. He strained to see the message. All of England held its breath with him, wanting to know the outcome of the war between their military leader, the Duke of Wellington, and the French dictator Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte, who had once ruled all of Europe bar England remained a threat, and now the decisive Battle of Waterloo had been fought.

So, as he stood in the tower of Winchester Cathedral our man waited to relay the news that would determine England’s future. The signal came just as a heavy fog was rolling in. It only just got through, but how he wished it hadn’t, for the signal read: “Wellington defeated”

The man signalled to other stations and the news spread across the countryside, bringing great gloom and sadness. But then a great reversal. The fog lifted, and the message was sent again, this time in full: “Wellington defeated the enemy”. Joy? Happiness? Delirium! Wellington had won!

On Good Friday it seemed the message was “Christ defeated”, but three days later we discover that the message had not been receive din full. The resurrection reverses what we initially thought and declares “Christ defeated the enemy!”

Source:  unknown.

The Dr Fox Hypothesis

J Scott Armstrong, associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania, has demonstrated in a series of tests for both written and spoken communication, that people are impressed by “experts” from within their own field even when what is said is completely unintelligible.

Armstrong calls this the “Dr. Fox hypothesis”, based on an experiment in which an actor posed as Dr Myron Fox and delivered a lecture to a group of science professionals of “double talk”, patching raw material from a Scientific American article into non-sequiters and contradictory statements interspersed with jokes and meaningless references to unrelated topics. An anonymous questionnaire was filled out afterwards in which the professionals reported that they found the lecture clear and stimulating.

Source: Leadership Magazine, Spring 1983 (Armstrong’s results and research originally appeared in Interfaces Vol 10, No 2 and were reported in Psychology Today.)