Sunday, March 19, 2017

Data Alone Does Not Change People’s Minds

On NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast, cognitive neuroscientist Tali Sharot discusses the role of data in changing people’s behavior.

From Data to Action

The goal of analytics is to have a positive impact on the performance of your organization. To have an impact, you usually need to convince people to change their behavior.

This is required whether you want to convince a CEO to adopt a new strategy, a manager to allocate resources differently, or a knowledge worker to change their processes.

That’s why data visualization and data storytelling have become key skill sets for modern analytics professionals.

Data is Not Enough

How do you convince people to change their behaviors? Many analysts fall into the trap of letting the data speak for itself.

On a recent episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast, cognitive neuroscientists Tali Sharot explains that data alone won’t do the job.  (The podcast is embedded above.)

Most people are familiar with the concept of confirmation bias, where we tend to accept data that supports our existing opinions. Sharot suggests there are ways to override this kind of bias.

Some key takeaways:
  • People evaluate new information based on what they already believe
  • Strongly held false beliefs are difficult to change with data
  • Fear tends to lead to inaction, rather than action
  • Positive feedback or hope is a powerful motivator if you want to change peoples actions
This is a fascinating listen for anyone interested in telling stories with data. Not only does it offer suggestions on how to change people’s behavior, it also illustrates the power of tracking results and making them available to people.

I’ve pre-ordered Sharot’s upcoming book, The Influential Mind. You should too!

Recommended Podcast Apps

I have received a lot of positive feedback from people who enjoy listening to the podcasts I mention on this blog. Several people have asked me how to listen to podcasts.

You can, of course, simply click on the play button in the posts. But you can also subscribe to podcasts using a smartphone app. This lets you listen on the go, and also notifies you when new episodes are available.

Here are two apps I recommend if you use an iOS device:
  • Castro Podcast Player is perfect if you are new to podcasts, or if you subscribe to a handful of podcasts.
  • Overcast: Podcast Player is good for people who subscribe to a large number of podcasts. It is more complex, but allows you to set up multiple playlists and priorities.
Further Reading