WHAT IS IT that we’re really lacking when we want to introduce infographics into new areas of communication … ? Yes, we need some evidence that the infographics are really working.
Therefore it’s a very welcome paper, that has been released by assistant professor at Dartmouth College Brendan Nyhan, and assistant professor at Georgia State University Jason Reifler, titled ‘Opening The Political Mind?’
The background for their study is previous findings that journalistic fact-checks on politicians and political views might yield no benefit. In fact you’ll risk that readers will be more entrenched in their wrong perception of truth because journalists use words, words and words when they present facts.
It’s a well documented psychological reaction to put greater emphasis on anything that supports your own worldview, and therefore it’s too easy to hook on to every little straw of imperfect analysis in an argument, if you’re forced to reconsider, what you believed to be true.
The Graph Treatment
‘Journalistic efforts to maintain objectivity often result in a ‘he said’, ‘she said’ style of reporting that may enable counter-arguing’ has according to the professors been proved before. And that is the reason why they decided to try something new: ‘The Graph Treatment’. What will happen if you’re using infographics to tell your reader the facts about political issues? Especially if you tell the facts about an issue, where readers already have formed a opinion?
– As a sidenote, the infographics they used are in no way difficult to produce. Any infographic artists could have done a better job designing them. See the example of the insurgent attacks in Iraq that illustrates this article.
In their experiment, they decided to test various statements about attacks by insurgents on the American forces in Iraq, creation of new jobs under the Obama-administration and global warming . Three issues that is often discussed but not necessarily with facts present.
And the professors reports back that – yes indeed – the ‘Graph Treatment’ shows a dramatic effect, when it comes to efficiency in rooting out wrong opinions that goes directly against the actual facts. Even republican conservatives who in a previous study showed almost impossible to influence with facts that countered their political views are willing to reconsider, when they see a graph.
It is important to note, that the professors see this effect of ‘Graph’ compared to ‘Text’ no matter how long the reader spends on the article. So the reported effect doesn’t stem from ‘Graph’ being much faster and easier to understand than ‘Text’. The effect comes from the simple fact, that it is extremely hard to argue against a timeline, which clearly shows a development one way or another.
If you take the findings outside the printed world, you can imagine a political speech backed up by realtime infographics, so you’ll get your points across to the entire attendance rather than having half of them looking for small imperfections in your arguments to be able to resist your facts.
The challenge now remains to develop infographic language to extend into areas, where it might not be as easy to illustrate the facts as numbers on a timeline. Lots of areas are waiting just for that – and why not? Now we have some scientific proof, that facts presented graphically is really working wonders.