Thanks Steve, That was a compelling narrative in favor of statistics.
Again demonstrates the power of narrative.
On Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 9:27 PM, Steve Simon, P.Mean Consulting <[log in to unmask]>
I am currently reading "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into
Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Sheryl WuDunn, and one of the quotes
on page 99 seemed relevant to this discussion.
Frankly, we hesitate to pile on the data, since even when numbers are
persuasive, they are not galvanizing. A growing collection of
psychological studies show that statistics have a dulling effect,
while it is individual stories that move people to act. In one
experiment, research subjects were divided into several groups, and
each person was asked to donate $5 to alleviate hunger abroad. One
group was told the money would go to Rokia, a seven-year-old girl in
Mali. Another group was told that the money would go to address
malnutrition among 21 million Africans. The third group was told that
the donations would go to Rokia, as in the first group, but this time
her own hunger was presented as part of a background tapestry of
global hunger, with some statistics thrown in. People were much more
willing to donate to Rokia than to 21 million hungry people and even
a mention of the larger problem made people less inclined to help
In another experiment, people were asked to donate to a $300,000 fund
to fight cancer. One group was told that the money would be used to
save the life of one child, while another group was told it would
save the lives of eight children. People contributed almost twice as
much to save one child as to save eight. Social psychologists argue
that all this reflects the way our consciences and ethical systems
are based on individual stories and are distinct from the part of our
brains concerned with logic and rationality. Indeed, when subjects in
experiments are first asked to solve math problems, thus putting in
play the parts of the brain that govern logic, afterward they are
less generous to the needy.
I wrote a brief article about this quote for a wiki publication, Chance News, and also included the Joseph Stalin quote:
> A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.
See item #9, Statistics make you stingy.
Steve Simon, Standard Disclaimer
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Thursday, January 21, 2010, 11am-noon, CST.
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