Don’t Bring Anecdotes to a Data Fight


I was listening to this week‘s Cracked podcast today (about how humanity always seems to think it’s on the brink of the apocalypse, no matter the generation, and how we actually are better off now than any point in history) and Jason Pargin said the following:

“When we cite these statistics we’re about to cite, the rebuttal people will bring will not be other statistics. It will be single, dramatic, emotional examples. Because we’re going to talk about worldwide poverty and the dramatic fall of those numbers, and people are going to come back and say, ‘Well, tell that to my uncle, who literally lost his job in the 90’s and now lives in a shack in the woods and he literally had to eat one of his own limbs…because he was starving.‘ That dramatic, shocking example will blow away their ability to understand that – in terms of numbers – that thing they’re describing used to happen much, much more. But they’re gonna bring anecdotes to a data fight, and in humans, this is our flaw. Emotional anecdotes override…the ability to look at the big picture.”

I really liked that play on the classic phrase, and ended up playing around with it on

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