3 ways to reframe the data
Which is more dangerous? A disease that kills 1,286 out of every 10,000 people it strikes? Or one that kills 12.86% of its victims?
The former is about 20% more dangerous, said a group of college students, according to an article in Money magazine. In fact, 1,286 out of 10,000 is just a different expression of 12.86%.
“If you tell someone that something will happen to one out of 10 people,” Paul Slivic, University of Oregon psychologist, told Money, “they think, ‘Well, who’s the one?’”
To make statistics more compelling, make them more emotional.
Here are three more things to consider when choosing a frame for your data:
1. Choose a positive frame.
Which steak tastes better? A steak that’s 25% fat? Or one that’s 75% lean?
People in one study said they were more likely to buy the 75% lean steak rather than the 25% fat steak, even though they are the exact same steak (Johnson and Levin, 1985; Levin et al., 1985).
Call it the framing effect bias: People react differently to an option or idea based on how it is presented. So frame your products positively instead of negatively.
2. Tap the power of percentages.
How long would you be willing to walk to avoid a 25% Lyft or Uber fare increase? What about a 1.25x increase?
- Some 38% of people were willing to walk to avoid the 1.25x fare, according to a survey by Irrational Labs and Common Cents Lab.
- But 44% were willing to walk to avoid the 25% increase — even though 25% is the same amount as 1.25x.
- But wait! There’s more! People were more willing to walk 5 minutes to avoid a 25% increase vs. a 1.75x fare — even though 1.75 is 50 percentage points more than 25%.
Takeaway: Use absolute numbers for increases. But when offering discounts, stick with percentages.
3. Use like forms.
Which is bigger: three-quarters, 80% or seven out of 10? How much bigger?
Don’t make readers perform mathematical backflips to follow the numbers in your copy. Don’t compare apples to watermelons.
When you compare numbers, put them all in the same form. In this case: 75%, 80% and 70%.
How can you help readers get the numbers?
If your readers are like most, they have, on average, below-basic numerical literacy, according to a massive international literacy study.
Learn to make numbers interesting and understandable at Rev Up Readability, our tight-writing workshop on Dec. 6.
There, you’ll learn to avoid statistics soup and data dumps; how to make numbers more emotional; how to create meaningful — not discombobulating — charts and which key question to ask every time your fingers reach for the top row of the keyboard.
Save up to $100 with our group discounts.