The Power of Data Visualization: Used to Mislead As Much As Inform

By Jorge Rivas Jan 08, 2010

Alex Lundry, a conservative political pollster and data visualizer, recently presented at Ignite DC, a conference designed to "spark new conversations and collaborations across cultures and disciplines." (Before I get any angry comments, you should know I do not agree with Alex Lundry’s politics or support any of his republican clients, the one thing that we do agree on is the power of visual data communication. That said, I encourage you to watch the video above because he has very smart and legit ideas that we need to be aware of if we want to win any of our big national healthcare or immigration fights.) In the video above Lundry explains that vision is our most dominant sense — it takes up 50% of our brain’s resources and he goes to explain what psychologist call the "picture superiority effect" that shows concepts are much more likely to be remembered if they are presented as pictures rather than as words. But Lundry also raises a good flag for all of us: we have tons of data readily available online now and anyone can visualize that data. The problem is that although many of these charts can have accurate data, designers can easily mislead us by skewing numbers and convince people of anything. Lundry believes we’re going to start seeing a lot more infographics "because it’s a discipline that’s beginning to bloom", not only as a tool that informs but also as a messaging vehicle looking to persuade you. So from now on, anytime you look at a beautiful infographic, remember that it’s totally possible that someone is trying to mess with your head.