Skepchick Quickies, 8.12


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. That’s just scratching the surface of what you can do with graphs…

    My favorite is a popular tactic for making a trend look more profound than it it: creative choice of Y axis values. Does showing Y from 0 to 100 make the curve slope too gentle? Make the Y axis go from 95 to 100 instead. Curve slope increased by a factor of 20!

    It’s amazing how often to you see that one.

  2. @TheCzech: I noticed that one was missing too.

    I also think I remember some anti-vaxers using the rate of the rate argument for why we didn’t see a drop in the incidence of autism after thimerosol was removed. That said, I actually see a bit of this within the scientific community- there it’s extremely disappointing.

  3. @TheCzech:

    I’ve also seen it the other way around, where the Y-axis is increased to make the trend look more stable. The sad thing is, a lot of people fall for it. I have a coworker who will often spend over 20 minutes adjusting the color scale and zoom level on a 3D graph until it looks good. He doesn’t seem to realize that the data is exactly the same and he’s not actually getting better date because the graph looks nicer.

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