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Datapresentation - Chapter 15 Data Presentation The way...

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Chapter 15. Data Presentation The way data are presented can have a big influence on your interpretation. Lots of ways to show something There are usually countless ways of presenting the same data. You are already familiar with the difference between raw numbers, tables, and graphs. Microsoft Excel gives you many choices of graph (chart) types, and if you have ever attempted to make a graph in Excel, you can probably appreciate the immense variety of ways there are to show something (what kind of chart, what colors to use, how wide to make lines and bars, where to put the text, ...), and how easy it is to make it more complicated than you want. Data presentation is not just about making something pretty. Choice of one presentation format over another can influence how people respond to or evaluate the data. You will encounter examples of this many times in your lives (and no doubt already have), as the method of data presentation is often a deliberate attempt to influence you. Furthermore, how you interpret the data could make a difference to you. People who were around in the 1960s may remember a Peace Corps commercial with a glass that was half full of milk. The ad pointed out that you could interpret the glass as ‘half full’ or ‘half empty.’ A current but disturbing example of this same issue is seen in the CDC (Center for Disease Control) web page on condom efficacy against sexually transmitted disease. In the past, the web page emphasized that proper condom use had been shown to greatly reduce the transmission of HIV. Now, perhaps under pressure from an Executive Administration that wants to discourage promiscuity, the web page emphasizes that HIV transmission can occur even when condoms are properly used. Both views are correct – condoms have been shown to drastically cut HIV transmission, but some transmissions have occurred among ‘consistent’ condom users. The scale of numbers used to illustrate a point can have a big effect on perception, as in the figure below. All three figures show the same invented data about the number of attendants at a rally for candidate A (1500) and for candidate B (1000). The most legitimate representation is in the top figure. The bottom figure appears to inflate the excess for candidate 2 by starting the vertical axis at 500 instead of 0. The middle figure appears to deflate the excess by using a log scale.
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How to market a new drug or medical procedure: relative versus absolute benefits The marketing of new drugs and medical procedures (mammography , certain cancer treatments) has reached unprecedented levels.
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