The Big Problem With Infographics

I’ve always been skeptical of statistics. Especially during an election year. But what about statistics that are massaged and then given an artistic flourish in order to make an entertaining infographic? I regularly post them on Edudemic and will continue to do so because I believe you, the wonderful reader, are smart enough to figure out whether certain stats are bunk or not.

I know not every infographic is completely accurate but they generally raise awareness and get people talking about a particular issue. That’s when the real deep-dive into research comes into play. However, let this amazing set of charts from Business Week serve as a reminder that you should take all infographics with a giant grain (or handful) of salt.

Is Facebook responsible for the Greek debt crisis? Is a mountain range correlated to the murder rate? All these and other important questions are answered below. Click image to enlarge.

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Infographics by djager - Pearltrees

  2. tanyagupta

    December 11, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Very interesting post!

    • edudemic

      December 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm

      @tanyagupta thanks Tanya! I’m definitely thinking twice about each infographic that gets onto Edudemic from now on :)

  3. TJC_Buell

    December 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Correlation is often a misrepresented statistic. While some things have strong correlations, like you have shown here, an additional statistic test should be performed to state whether or not the correlation is purely by chance (based on probabilities).

    Though, this isn’t my biggest problem with infographics. My biggest issue is that infographics are created by people that are not ‘living’ in the data world (typically). Understanding the data, how it was collected, how to use it, its limitations, or if it can be compared across other measurements is not always a step designers take. Since infographics tend to work with stats represented in SEVERAL reports, these findings are blended or compared. Statistically, this is wrong and can lead to misrepresented findings (incorrect conclusions), which in my mind is far more damaging. Most infographics should be dissected via their sources before much value, if at all, is invested in them.

    The least amount of sources used to create the graphic, the better accuracy – is a good rule of thumb. This requires the least amount of data familiarity.

  4. Pingback: Beyond Data-Informed: Using Quant & Qual Data to Solve Problems | Skylance