17 October 2014

Simple Graphs and Formulas Are Persuasive

Published this week in Public Understanding of Science, the Cornell Food and Brand Lab study found trivial graphs or formulas accompanying medical information can lead consumers to believe products are more effective. "Your faith in science may actually make you more likely to trust information that appears scientific but really doesn't tell you much," said lead author Aner Tal, post-doctoral researcher at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. "Anything that looks scientific can make information you read a lot more convincing." 
The study showed that when a graph -- with no new information -- was added to the description of a medication, 96.6 percent of people believed that the medicines were effective in reducing illness verses 67.7 percent of people who were shown the product information without the graph. . . ."In fact, the more people believed in science, the more they were convinced by the graphs."
From here citing A. Tal, B. Wansink, "Blinded with science: Trivial graphs and formulas increase ad persuasiveness and belief in product efficacy." (Public Understanding of Science 2014) (emphasis added).

Let charitably, but to the same effect, the vast majority of people are at least somewhat innumerate, but most people can easily grasp simple graphs and formulas.

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