Continue on Chapter 1, the author tries to persuade readers on why to tell stories with data. He provides some psychological experiments done to prove his points. Apart from that, he also mentioned the three elements of the data story in which he will devote one to two chapters to elaborate on each of the elements later.

I am going to summarize a few psychological experiments here. I think it is good to know the science behind. But, to know whether it works or not, it is better to try it out by yourself (The experiments are just selected by the author).

Experiment #1

Who designs the experiment?Chip Health, Standford Professor
How’s the set up of the experiment?– Divide students into groups of 6 to 8.
– Provide them with crime data.
– Each student in a group delivers a 1 min pitch on why nonviolent crime is or isn’t a serious problem.
– Other students in the group rate each individual’s performance.
– Watch a short movie clip. (Student thinks this is the end)
– Professor asks students to write down every idea they can remember from their peer’s speeches.
What is the result of the experiment?Though no more than 10 mins have passed, students often struggle to recall, regardless of how highly some of the students were rated.

Typical students used 2.5 statistics. Only 1 out of 10 students used stories. 63% of the student remember stories. Only 5% remember individual statistics.

Experiment #2

Who designs the experiment?Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University
How’s the set up of the experiment?– Participants were given 5 one-dollar bills,
– Ask participants to read the pamphlet for a charity focused on the welfare of children.
– Participants offer a donation if they wish.
– 2 versions of the pamphlet were made. One with statistics on how people in Africa were being impacted by food shortages and droughts. One took a story-based approach, highlighting the challenging situation of a 7-year-old girl.
What is the result of the experiment?– On average, the participants who received statistics-based version donated $1.14.
– The participants who received the story-based version donated $2.38.

The author emphasizes that although story is clearly better than just fact, it is rarely a battle between them. Fact and statistics are crucial. Story is just a communication technique.

The author then moves on to talk about the 3 essential elements of data stories, namely data, narrative and visuals. He mentioned a few more experiments to prove why they are essential to be persuasive. I think experience #1 and #2 already demonstrated the impact of the narrative. So, I will not copy more examples here. For the importance of data, it is also clear since stories without data and evidence are made-up or worse lies.

Experiment #3 (To illustrate the importance of visuals)

Who designs the experiment?Researchers at Michigan State University
How’s the set up of the experiment?– Gave either full text or illustrated instructions to 400 patients on wound care.
What is the result of the experiment?Patients who received the illustrated instructions outperformed the text-based ones. Illustrated instructions were more likely to be read, comprehended, and acted on the advice.

There are more experiments the author mentioned. But, I think they are just more examples. You already get the point.

In Chapter 5, the author will talk about “data’. In Chapter 6, “Narrative”. In Chapter 7,8, “Visuals”. Now, you should be able to see the organization of the book.

One last thing worth mentioning is how to judge your communication level. There are 4 levels of communication, namely, from lowest to highest, attention, understand, remember, and act. So, what is your level now?

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