Decision Science News ran a post about communicating complex scientific topics to the general public. Their solution? Use pictures.
The original blog post is fairly dense, but here is one representative quote:
What may seem unambiguous is actually interpreted by different people in different ways. A survey of people in 5 international cities found no agreement on what a 30% chance of rain means. Some thought it means rain on 30% of the the day’s minutes, others thought rain in 30% of the land area, and so on.
There might be a clearer way to state this. Technically, percentage of precipitation refers to the likelihood that there will be some rainfall at any particular spot, throughout the course of time covered by the forecast. But wow, that’s a mouthful!
Compare this with another example, cribbed from the Decision Science News site. This is a style of question given in medical schools to help doctors explain tests to their patients:
The probability of esophageal cancer in a certain population is 1%. If a person has esophageal cancer, the probability that the haemoccult test is positive is 7%. If a person does not have esophageal cancer, the probability that he still tests positive is about 86%. What is the probability that a person from the population who tests positive actually has esophageal cancer?
If your head is swimming in numbers, you are not alone. Here’s a simpler version:
In other words, only one out of every hundred people have cancer. If we run the test, about 7 times out of a 100 the test will be positive. But this particular test isn’t very reliable, so most of those are actually false positives. In this example, testing positive for cancer just once is not a cause for major alarm.
We’ve written about the power of diagrams many times before. Complex ideas can often be explained simply and quickly using pictures. Contact our business process improvement methodology specialists today to learn more!