Alberto Cairo on Misreading Data Visualizations

Scientific American

Alberto Cairo on Misreading Data Visualizations

CCS Visualization Program Director Dr. Alberto Cairo has published “Does Obesity Shorten Lives: Misreading Data Visualizations Can Reinforce Biased Perceptions” in the Public Health section of Scientific American’s September 2019 issue (p. 100).

The September issue is titled ‘Truth, Lies & Uncertainty: Searching for Reality in Unreal Times’. It contains articles about how deception works (and not only among humans!), how dishonesty spreads, why we trust lies, and how we make decisions when having incomplete information. Dr. Cairo’s favorite article in this issue is by Jessica Hullman (p. 80) who, perhaps not surprisingly he says, describes how to visualize uncertainty.

Alberto CairoDr. Cairo’s article explains the ecological fallacy, amalgamation paradoxes, and—above all—focuses on how easy it is to misunderstand a chart if we describe its content sloppily, either to ourselves (mentally) or to others (verbally or textually). The example used is similar to one he borrowed from Heather Krause @datassist, which he showcases in his new book: How Charts Lie.


Read the full article at Scientific American, or download the whole issue.