Who has the best chance of understanding infographics?

Here come the science…

First, a warn­ing: The maths may well be crucially flawed (I consul­ted with stat­ist­i­cians but you know what those guys are like), and my profess­ors did not under­stand the results well enough to mark it with any degree of confid­ence. The anonymised data is avail­able at the end of the post, as I would sincerely like stat­ist­i­cians with more resources and brain power than me to take a proper look at them. The results apply to the UK only.


I didn’t want to fall into the trap most graphic design disser­ta­tions fall into of taking a sample of 5 graphic design­ers as my subjects and expect­ing them to be repres­ent­at­ive of a whole popu­la­tion — a deeply flawed and far too commonly repeated approach in both design and pyscho­logy stud­ies. So I asked the inter­net instead. More than 300 of you obli­ging little blight­ers replied. I love you guys!

I displayed two things on a screen and asked people to tell me which one repres­en­ted more people.

Those things were a mixture of graph­ics, writ­ten ratios, and writ­ten percent­ages. Like was compared with like, and like was compared with both of the other options. The ques­tions were random­ised so parti­cipants never saw the ques­tions in the same order. There were a lot of ques­tions and it got a little dull. I only analysed the results of people who got to the end of the survey, which gave me 223 parti­cipants, and for the ques­tions alone over 7,000 data­points. With demo­graphic inform­a­tion it comes to more like 11,000 datapoints.

The results

You can down­load the data in Excel format.

I have edited them to take out any identi­fy­ing data, to merge the demo­graph­ics columns, and to add in which answers were correct and which were incorrect.

The final dissertation

Download the whole thing, includ­ing some analysis of char­ity commu­nic­a­tions and the current state of psycho­lo­gical models of risk-perception: The percep­tion of risk in char­ity health commu­nic­a­tions. This includes the survey ques­tions (in the appendix at the end) so you can see how the survey was run. It also includes the partic­u­lar pitfalls of this kind of meth­od­o­logy (and no doubt misses a few out).

Above all, I don’t care if I was right or not — but I would love it if you guys with the power and math­em­at­ical skills can look at this and tell me if there’s anything useful there.

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Corinne Pritchard

Information Designer at Simply Understand
I believe design and design­ers can and should make the world a better place. I love design­ing things that help people under­stand complex ideas.

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3 thoughts on “Who has the best chance of understanding infographics?

  1. I had forgot­ten about taking this survey until I read this post! thank you for “report­ing back” and telling us the results :-)

    1. I love infograph­ics when they are dgneised prop­erly, but I really can’t stand the ones where you have to scroll up and down, up and down, up and down, well you get the point.Those ones are like movies that go from begin­ning to end to begin­ning to the middle, then back to the begin­ning, then to the end, and then ending in the middle.Confused? Yeah, me too.Derek Maak recently posted..

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