Don’t believe everything you see — it’s one of those age-old bits of wisdom that can serve us well in many areas of life, including the visualization of your business mapping data. Data visualization can be an invaluable analytical and strategic planning tool for just about any organization. But, as with any tool, it is vital to use data visualization in an appropriate manner.
In this post, we will take a close look at the various ways that data visualization could be misleading, misinforming or even deceiving. We will also provide tips on how you can avoid the pitfalls that so often lead to misinformation when interpreting business data.
What Is Data Visualization?
Data visualization generally refers to any activity designed to help individuals gain a better understanding of the significance of specific data by placing it in a visual context. Another way to look at it is that data visualization provides a means of bringing dry, one-dimensional pieces of information to life. Mapping is one of the most common — and effective — data visualization tools for business owners and managers, as it allows them to obtain a fresh, clear perspective that is likely to elude them when viewing rows and columns of data on a spreadsheet printout or computer screen.
Who Uses Data Visualization?
Organizations in a wide range of industries use data visualization as a regular component of their strategic planning activities. There are many industries that derive huge benefits from the vast array of business mapping software features available such as performing comprehensive market analyses for multiple locations, designing profitable, cost-effective sales territories, route optimization and creating powerful reports and presentations, all through the use of maps. These map enabled industries include retail, banking and finance, insurance, healthcare and consumer goods manufacturing — to name a few.
Why Is Data Visualization Important?
Data visualization is an invaluable resource for analyzing your current customers, prospects and competitors. Used effectively, it will help you maximize your sales opportunities and identify potential areas of vulnerability. How can you use data visualization to improve organizational performance? Here is a brief summary of the many benefits derived when visualizing your data with business maps:
- Identify marketing and sales patterns in your coverage areas.
- Spot new customer purchasing trends as they emerge.
- Create a variety of analysis using your most relevant business data.
- More easily share data with colleagues through shared web maps.
- Identify the location-based factors that influence the way your customers and prospects act.
- Gain a better understanding of where to locate/distribute your company’s products and services.
- More accurately predict and communicate sales volumes on a territory, local, state or national basis.
How to Create a Map for Data Visualization
Creating a map with the advanced visualization features you need to maximize the data visualization process is easy with the help of business mapping software. It’s a relatively simple five-step process:
- Develop an Excel spreadsheet that contains comprehensive address data for your customers, prospects and/or competitors.
- Add any additional relevant data that pertains to your impending business decisions.
- Import any custom symbols that relate to your specific business or industry so you can use your map to communicate more clearly with your particular audience.
- Define specific coverage areas such as sales territories and area of interest using zip codes, counties or Census tracts. Think through how your business is defined geographically.
- Review your data to assure accurate location information is applied.
Identifying Data Malpractice
There’s no doubt that data visualization has a powerful impact on the audience, whether it consists of a group of colleagues, customers or prospects. However, this can be somewhat of a double-edged sword. The same characteristics and benefits that make visualization such an effective tool can also lead to what is known as “data malpractice.” In other words, it is easy to be misleading with your data — in both intentional and unintentional ways. Thus, the distortion of data can have intended or unintended consequences for your audience and your organization.
The Three Basic Ways Data Visualization Can Be Misleading and Misinforming
By its very nature, data visualization is the embellishment of information. One could make a comparison between data visualization and advertising. The latter often entails the “enhancement” of the features and benefits of a product or service with the use of persuasive marketing tactics — think of a glossy magazine picture that makes a food product look irresistibly appetizing or a weight loss commercial that promises to make women look like swimsuit models if they follow a specific diet plan.
Data visualization that uses mapping as a vehicle for presenting data can have a similar effect. Mapping software gives the user the flexibility to “manipulate” the data to present information in the most favorable light. As we will see later, the method in which a graph, chart or map is created can have a major influence on the way an audience interprets the data — for better or for worse.
Misinformation with data visualization can occur in three ways:
- Transparent Misinformation: Inherent in virtually every data visualization process that involves mapping. For instance, everyone understands that a map symbol of a tree represents more than just tree – it actually indicates the presence of a wooded area or forest containing several trees or subset of data instead of just one specific data point. This feature is what enables mapping to provide the desired visual effect.
- White Lies: We make use of “little white lies” in many aspects of our daily life — we compliment someone on a new hairstyle or state that we loved a meal — even if we don’t always truly mean what we say. By the same token, data visualization enables us to “exaggerate” certain statistics or details to drive home a point. For example, we can round a figure up or down for the sake of clarity when displaying it on a map, even though it does not represent the exact value.
- Misrepresentations: Data visualization can also be used to misrepresent information for the purpose of conveying a bias, with the ultimate purpose of persuading the audience to subscribe to a certain point of view. This can be done on a subconscious level or with a true intent to deceive the audience. An example is the use of a bright red color to indicate that the sales of a product in a specific geographic region is “hot” during the previous quarter, even though they may actually be down over a longer period of time.
Examples of Ways Data Visualization Can Be Misleading
There is a wide range of data visualization techniques that can misinform and even mislead the audience. Examples include:
1. Creating Non-Zero Baselines
The typical line graph or bar chart consists of two lines that form a right angle and establish the data coordinate plane. The x-axis represents the horizontal line across the bottom, while the y-axis is the name for the vertical line that extends in an upward direction from the x-axis. One common “trick” is to create a y-axis on a bar chart that starts with a value that is something greater than zero. This has the effect of skewing the visual comparison in a way that improperly emphasizes the difference between the bars, which can lead to misinterpretation on the part of the viewer. This can be accomplished on a map too. For instance, in a demographic population map color coding only zip codes that have at least 500 people living there.
This is a classic example of how creating a non-zero baseline can alter one’s perception of the data. The bar graph on the left uses a y-axis starting point of 3.14 percent, making it appear that interest rates have soared over a four-year period. The graph on the right uses a starting point of zero for the y-axis, which paints a more accurate picture of how interest rates have actually remained relatively flat over time.
2. Misleading Colors
One of the more popular features of mapping software is the ability to create heat maps and similar vehicles, where different colors are used to distinguish between individual values. How these colors are arranged on a map can have a direct impact on how an audience interprets the values.
For instance, using an abrupt contrast in colors, such as going from a dark shade of blue to a light yellow, can make a viewer believe there is a more dramatic change in the values than actually exists. Conversely, a map that displays little in the way of color contrast can give the impression that there is very little difference between the map values, when in fact the very opposite may be true.
3. Graphs That Don’t Tell the Whole Story
It is possible to use data visualization in a way that only tells a portion of what is really occurring. A prime example is when using data to create a cumulative graph to show growth over time. For instance, a graph that is nothing more than a compilation of a company’s revenues over a period of years will not indicate whether the revenues are increasing or decreasing from one year to the next. Unless the audience takes the time to closely scrutinize the data, audience members may believe that the company’s revenues are increasing, when they may actually be in a steady freefall.
This example shows how misleading using a graph showing cumulative data can be. The cumulative graph on the left indicates the sum of the company’s revenues from 2004 to 2014, which makes it appear that the organization has experienced constant growth over a period of a decade. But when you consider that a company’s cumulative revenues can do nothing but increase — assuming it stays in business and generates any sales at all — this graph really provides little in the way of meaningful information.
The graph on the right depicts the actual amount of revenue generated each year, instead of on a cumulative basis. It illustrates that the revenues have been in gradual decline over the past several years, a more truthful and precise measurement of the company’s recent and long-term performance.
4. Deviating From Standard Practices
There are certain standard practices that apply to using mapping for data visualization. Deviating from these practices can render the chart or graph virtually meaningless. For example, the typical pie chart includes segments or “slices” of data with assigned values that should add up to 100 percent.
During the 2012 GOP presidential primaries, however, the Fox News Chicago affiliate displayed a pie chart where the values of the segments regarding the voters’ preferences of the three main Republican candidates totaled well over 100 percent (poll respondents were permitted to make multiple choices). When displayed as a pie chart, viewers were led to believe that each candidate had garnered about one-third of voter support, when this was actually not the case at all.
5. Improper Scaling Methods
One issue with displaying images on a bar chart or graph is that the dimensions of the images may be scaled in a disproportionate manner, which can be misleading to the viewer. If one image is meant to represent a value that is twice that of another image, but the image itself is actually four times larger, it fails to give the viewer a true indication of the actual relationship between the two. Thus, the viewer may interpret the data as if that one company is generating four times the sales, profits or market penetration than the other, when the actual value is only two times as much.
How to Create Effective, Accurate Data Visualizations
From an ethics and accuracy standpoint, most businesses wish to avoid misleading with their data, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Displaying a map, chart or graph containing information that deceives a customer is a sure way to lose business and give your company a less-than-favorable reputation throughout your industry. Just as important, relying on skewed data will likely lead you to make poor decisions that negatively impact your company’s performance — not to mention your bottom line.
Tips to help you use data visualization in an accurate and ethical manner include:
- Simplicity: Most mapping software contains a wide range of features, some of which you may not actually need. A good approach, however, is to determine what you actually wish to achieve through data visualization and limit your selection to the features that will help you reach your objectives. In many cases, a simple bar chart or line graph can serve your purpose, and you will avoid adding layers of complexity that could lead to the misrepresentation of data.
- Think of Your Users’ Needs: It is likely that several individuals in your organization will want to use data visualization for presentations, decision-making, competitor analyses and more. Use your mapping software to create a dashboard that makes it easy to drill down to the specific information that all users may need. This will make your mapping software package much more user-friendly so anyone can create effective, accurate, task-specific data visualizations.
- Create Accurate Comparisons: The best data visualization techniques add context that makes it easy for the user to make accurate comparisons. A bar graph that compares sales revenue growth from one quarter to the next or a pie chart that illustrates the amount of market share held by you and your competitors provides a clear understanding of where you are and where you have been, which can prove invaluable in helping you determine where you’re going.
How to Avoid Being Deceived by Maps
If you are a regular consumer of data visualization, it is important to take a proactive approach when reviewing maps, charts and graphs that have been prepared by others. Closely scrutinize the actual data, instead of only the visual component of the display. If the information doesn’t make sense, ask the presenter for clarification or ask a colleague for their interpretation. In other words, don’t believe everything you see!
Learn more about the true benefits of using accurate data visualization for your business functions today! Have a question for MapBusinessOnline? Don’t hesitate and contact us today!
Our brain's remarkable ability to interpret stimuli in our world helps us in many ways, like enabling us to interpret a three-dimensional world from a flat photo. But our brain's perceptions also can backfire, leading us to think we see phenomena that aren't actually there.Can we always believe what we see? ›
“Seeing is believing,” right? Not necessarily. Visual illusions can distort our perception so that what we “see” does not correspond with what is physically there. This special edition of Scientific American Mind explores the world of sensory illusions and delves into how they fool the brain.Why you shouldn t believe everything you read on the internet? ›
Don't believe everything you read on the internet
However, keep in mind that unlike peer-reviewed scientific publications, much of what is written on the internet is biased in terms of what information is selected for presentation, and is not reviewed by experts for accuracy.
But can you rely on the information you find to be accurate? Unfortunately, the answer is: not always. For every expert providing high-quality and reliable health information online, there may be two or three unqualified people putting out misleading or false information.How do I stop believing everything I see? ›
- Disobey on purpose. Let me start with one that I'm sure will seem perplexing. ...
- Give your mind a name, and listen to it politely. ...
- Appreciate what your mind is trying to do. ...
- Sing it. ...
- Carry it with you.
disbelieving, sceptical, skeptical, unbelieving.What is an example of seeing is not believing? ›
For example: observing the sunset, feeling pain and pleasure, tasting a chocolate, smelling a rose or listening to birdsong. This means being conscious of our sensory experiences in the here-and-now. Not recalling memories or imagining what the future might be.What is it called when you believe everything you see? ›
Definitions of credulous. adjective. showing a lack of judgment or experience. “so credulous he believes everything he reads”What is the difference between seeing and believing? ›
In the physical world, seeing comes prior to believing, but in the spiritual world, believing often precedes knowing, just as faith precedes the miracle. Believing can give us eyes to see and ears to hear, enabling us to understand and know.Why do people read things wrong? ›
Mistakes are a natural part of reading. We misread because we're rushed, tired, distracted, bored, pressured, or because we believe before we start that we know what the text will say.
Reading challenges our minds and sparks our creativity. It makes us see things in our "mind's eye" rather than simply interpreting someone else's vision.What should you not say on the Internet? ›
racism, misogyny, homophobia – which could have many social and public consequences, and may also be classified as hate speech or crimen injuria; common sense bad ideas – like mocking your boss on a public forum.Is my internet being watched? ›
If you're not careful, almost anyone can see your internet activity. Wi-Fi admins can see your activity through router logs, while websites, apps, ISPs, search engines, and advertisers all have means of tracking what you do online. Your devices and browsers keep records of what you do on them too.Should I believe everything on Google? ›
But since Google doesn't verify every link, it's not always wise to trust the data it gives you. Google's algorithms like PageRank have got better at assessing expertise and trustworthiness of a website. But the wrong information can sneak in, or we as readers can make mistakes in interpreting the search results.Is it OK to trust someone online? ›
You can trust a guy who understands privacy and online safety. Boundaries are critical for online dating: information like your address, work number, and perhaps even personal number should stay confidential until you fully trust him. A good guy won't push you to do or reveal more than you're comfortable with.How do I clear my mind of unwanted thoughts? ›
- Go for a walk.
- Listen to music — it can have surprising benefits.
- Read a chapter of your favorite book.
- Do a guided meditation or try some mindful breathing.
- Take a nap.
Each of us has “automatic thoughts” that determine how we feel about ourselves, others and our lives. Many times these thoughts are conditioned on our past experiences and the belief system we have built to interpret our world. But just because you think it doesn't mean it's true. Thoughts aren't always facts.How can I control my mind from unwanted thoughts? ›
- Shifting perspective.
- Positive thinking.
- Guided imagery.
- Focused distractions.
A theist is the opposite of an atheist. Theists believe in the existence of a god or gods. The word deist refers to someone who believes in God. But a deist believes that while God created the universe, natural laws determine how the universe plays out.Why does my mind believe things that aren't true? ›
Psychosis is often described as a "loss of reality" or a "break from reality" because you experience or believe things that aren't real. It can change the way you think, act, feel, or sense things. Psychosis can be very scary and confusing, and it can significantly disrupt your life.
In the psychology of human behavior, denialism is a person's choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality.What does the Bible say about believing without seeing? ›
Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed."What faith is believing and not seeing? ›
Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that “faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” We are called to believe and to live out that belief every day.Is faith believing in something you can t see? ›
Faith is believing in things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1–32).Who said don't believe everything you think? ›
I love this quote by author Robert Fulghum: “Don't believe everything you think.” So succinct, so direct, so true.What does blindly believe mean? ›
unquestioning belief in something, even when it's unreasonable or wrong.What does don't believe everything you hear mean? ›
A warning against over-reliance on one's own experience recorded from the mid 19th century; a related Middle English saying warns that you should not believe everything that is said or that you hear, and a letter of the late 18th century has, 'You must not take everything to be true that is told to you. 'How does the Bible define believing? ›
Nelson's Bible Dictionary defines faith as a belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to his will for one's life. Nelson also says belief is to place one's trust in God's truth. A person who believes is one who takes God at his word and trusts in him for salvation.What is the difference between having faith and believing? ›
Faith involves reliance and trust, and it endures in the face of doubts, whereas belief is simply something we take to be true. “I can have faith in things or people without a corresponding belief, and I can believe things that I don't have faith in,” he said.Are faith and delusion the same thing? ›
Faith is part of their personhood; delusion arises from psychiatric disorder. A person with religious belief may have a delusion but only if they have a concurrent psychiatric illness.
- Confuse visually similar words such as cat and cot.
- Spell erratically.
- Find it hard to scan or skim text.
- Read/write slowly.
- Need to re-read paragraphs to understand them.
- Find it hard to listen and maintain focus.
- Find it hard to concentrate if there are distractions.
- Wonderfully Imaginative. ...
- Strong Visual Memory. ...
- Excellent Puzzle-Solving Skills. ...
- Brilliant Visual Spatial Reasoning. ...
- Great at Connecting with Others.
A hallucination involves seeing, hearing, smelling or tasting something that doesn't actually exist. Hallucinations can be the result of mental health problems like Alzheimer's disease, dementia or schizophrenia, but also be caused by other things including alcohol or drugs.What happens if you read too much? ›
Even though you will not lose your eyesight or damage it in any way through doing too much reading, you can cause some eye strain if your reading sessions run for too long. The symptoms are quite easy to identify: your eyes may be itchy, watering, or you might even get blurry vision.What are the dangers of reading too much? ›
However exaggerated (or ridiculous) this stereotype is, reading is indeed associated with eye strain and comes at the expense of exercise and other physical activities. Frequently related are poor diets and digestive problems, an unwelcome weight gain or loss, and generalized exhaustion.What happens if you read a lot everyday? ›
Reading Improves Brain Function
A person who reads everyday gets better at it over time. Not surprisingly, daily readers also gain more enjoyment from it than those that read less often. It can even improve memory and critical thinking skills.
Using a search engine to search for illegal internet activity is a crime, and police can use your search behavior, search history, and social network to establish intent or conspiracy to commit a worse offense like possession of child pornography or even murder.What are 3 things you shouldn't do on the internet? ›
- Eight things your kids shouldn't do online.
- Talk to strangers.
- Share personal information.
- Play without time limits.
- Having a profile in Social Networks.
- Download inappropriate apps.
- Enter websites with inappropriate content for children.
- Believe they've won something.
Long story short: yes, someone can monitor your phone to keep tabs on all your activities. This includes phone calls, texts, browser activity, photos, videos, apps, and more. This is often done via spyware, a form of malware designed for monitoring a device's activity remotely.Can you tell if your cell phone is being tracked? ›
However, if someone is spying on your phone, there are common signs you can look out for. You may notice a rapid increase in your phone's data usage, suspicious files or applications, or strange text messages that you don't remember sending. Your device may also show signs of malfunctioning behavior.
Can Someone See My Internet History On Their WIFI? Yes. The WiFi owner has access to the admin panel from the WiFi router, meaning they can see the browsing information performed on their WiFi network. In addition, routers see log information, including when and what you did on your computer.Should I believe everything I see on the internet? ›
Don't believe everything you read on the internet. In fact, it's probably a good practice to not believe anything you read or see anywhere, and certainly never from a single source. If there is a subject or controversy that interests you, dig a little deeper. Read the counter-argument.Why you shouldn't trust everything on the internet? ›
#1 There is no quality assurance when it comes to information found on the Internet: Anyone can post anything. #2 In most cases, information found on the web has not been checked for accuracy. #3 Not all web sites are created equal. They differ in quality, purpose, and bias.What should I do not search on Google? ›
- srinil_photo/Shutterstock. Anything that's going to embarrass you. ...
- Take Photo/Shutterstock. Anything that's going to incriminate you. ...
- Taras Atamaniv/Shutterstock. Skin conditions.
- Their Profile Contents are Too-Good-To-Be-True (or Sketchy) ...
- Their Profiles Have Limited Photos. ...
- Social Media is Missing. ...
- Automated Conversations. ...
- They Are Straightforward and Outright Flirty. ...
- It's Easy to Be Safe Than Sorry.
Now it's possible to become involved with someone other than your spouse or partner by hooking up online. But while it may seem innocent enough—after all, you aren't in physical contact—online cheating really is just that: cheating.What are the red flags for online dating? ›
- They ask you for money. ...
- They warn you about themselves. ...
- They say "I love you" within days. ...
- They won't send you pictures. ...
- They give vague answers on their profile. ...
- They talk about their ex. ...
- They go heavy on the sweet-talk.
We often say that “seeing is believing.” In the spiritual realm, however, the reverse is also true: “believing is seeing.” Believing helps us see things with our spiritual eyes and senses. The world you are entering will likely test your deepest beliefs.Does your brain believe everything you tell it? ›
It's absolutely amazing the power our thoughts have over our minds. It's simple: our mind believes what we tell it. Many of us don't comprehend the inherent power of our thoughts and feelings.What is it called when you only believe in what you see? ›
Confirmation bias: believing what you see, seeing what you believe.
Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness called a psychotic disorder. People who have it can't tell what's real from what is imagined. Delusions are the main symptom of delusional disorder. They're unshakable beliefs in something that isn't true or based on reality.What does God say about believing without seeing? ›
But Jesus says that those who will believe without seeing for themselves will be uniquely blessed. Such belief is not foolish credulity or gullibility; God offers abundant evidence from multiple first-hand witnesses.What do you call someone who believes everything they see? ›
Credulous comes from the 16th-century Latin credulus, or "easily believes." A synonym for credulous is gullible, and both terms describe a person who accepts something willingly without a lot of supporting facts. Calling someone credulous can imply that the person is naive and simple.Where in the Bible does it say seeing to believe? ›
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. The modern World English Bible translates the passage as: Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed."Can your thoughts lie to you? ›
Yes, your thoughts DO lie.
False negative thoughts are frequent, to the tune of thousands of misleading thoughts per day that then wreak havoc on your emotions and stress levels, creating feelings of being upset, anxious and frustrated.
“The American psychologist and philosopher William James said that thoughts become perception, perception becomes reality. Your thoughts alter your reality. The world which we live in, its quality and character is nothing but a reflection of our own minds.Why does negativity come into your mind? ›
Many of us unconsciously use negativity as a defence mechanism. It protects us from things not working out. Our minds use negative thoughts so we're not blindsided when we're disappointed. Unfortunately, this anticipated failure or bad luck also prevents us from putting our best foot forward.Can you believe in God and not go to church? ›
Most people who stop attending church services still believe in God, according to new research commissioned by the Church of Scotland. Many who no longer attend church choose to express their faith in new ways, said Scotland's national Church.What is it called when you believe in spirituality but not God? ›
The term ietsism is becoming more widely used in Europe, as opposed to the phrase 'spiritual but not religious' which prevails in North America.Is making fake scenarios in your head disorder? ›
Factitious disorder is considered rare, but it's not known how many people have the disorder.
- Feelings of being exploited.
- Preoccupation with the loyalty or trustworthiness of friends.
- A tendency to read threatening meanings into benign remarks or events.
- Persistently holding grudges.
- A readiness to respond and react to perceived slights.
This way of thinking is called catastrophic thinking, and it can be caused by problems with mental health or mental illness. Because of psychological issues or illnesses, a person may make up fake scenarios. For instance, an individual with an anxiety disorder might worry all the time about things they can't change.