Communicating survey results fast and slow
The way market researchers have traditionally presented survey data in slide after slide of complex tables and charts can best be described as mind-numbing cruelty. The usual charts we see around are nowhere near as interesting as this one. It is cruel to clients to impose dull complex charts on them. It is also a pretty ineffective way for our industry to communicate. In this post, I offer some suggestions based on Fast and Slow Thinking.
How ‘thinking fast and slow’ helps
In his book Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman used the terms System 1 and System 2 to describe how our brains automatically make decisions quickly and emotionally, although we all have the ability to think slowly and in a more controlled way when the circumstances are right. System 1 is instinctive and emotional and prone to bias, while System 2 is more cautious and analytical. System I is similar to the recall measures used in the paper mentioned above, while ‘curiosity to read more' is similar to System 2.
Five ‘ideal outcomes’ for readers (or audience members) when they see survey data
Building on this thinking, we can use Kahneman's ideas to work out how best to communicate survey results from a reader-centric perspective. We have identified 5 ‘ideal outcomes’ for readers (or audience members) when they see survey data.
Get the gist. When the message is simple or familiar, readers will understand the gist of the message in an instant and move on.
Think when they need to. When the findings are new, complex or particularly important to them, readers will spend time looking and reading and thinking about the implications.
No skipping. Readers won’t skip over important pieces of information.
No oversimplification. Readers won’t become victims to their cognitive biases and consequently mis-interpret complex and important data.
No over-thinking.Readers won’t spend time poring over a simple chart and over-thinking about what it means.
The reader-centric approach assumes that what may be simple and familiar to one person could be complex and new to someone else.
Two ways Kahneman can help
System 2 has to be triggered
People don’t start what they can’t finish
The message is: choose your charts with System 1 and 2 in mind
A technical note: Kahneman's model is a type of dual processing model of which there are several. Kahneman's is different a) because he popularised it and b) because his is a sequential model in which System 2 can never start until System 1 has already kicked in. Other eminent psychologists disagree with this and say that System 1 and System are intertwined - but this is a topic for a later post.
We are good at this kind of thing, because we think. Contact Sue.
Tags: Behavioural Economics, Communicating results