Dyssemia refers to the difficulty with, or outright inability, to read and understand non-verbal cues. The term was coined by psychologists Marshall Duke and Stephen Nowicki in 1992 by combining two greek root words that mean "difficulty" and "signal." As a result of their studies they estimated that approximately 55 percent of the actual emotional meaning of speech communication is expressed through physical: facial, postural, and gestural means, with only around 38 percent of meaning being transmitted through the voice tone.

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