For instance, if I said what is the relationship between these two sets of data, what would you say?

One of the reasons behind the field of science using visuals to represent data is based on the fact that most individuals are visual learners and therefore most people are able to interpret visual data representations much more easily than looking at say a list of numbers or just hearing the information.  For instance, if I said what is the relationship between these two sets of data, what would you say?













How about now?

ata are points in a straight line

Graphical representation of information can allow us to interpret results much faster and to see patterns that we might have missed otherwise.  Research has shown that visuals can promote higher order thinking when compared to just reading text alone, but research also says that most students skip over the visuals.

Is this a case of broccoli, where we avoid things even though we know they are good for us?  In the See Like a Scientist activities, each week we will look at visuals and give some basic strategies for exploring and interpreting graphs and figures.

Over the next five modules, we will look at:



Visual Type:

Visual distortion and errors in interpreting



Axes and scale



Legends and color


Figures and Diagrams



Scatter Plot

Role of context


Specialized visuals

For these exercises, you will be given pointers for interpreting specific types of visuals, you can visit different websites to see examples, and then you will have a chance to discuss what you have learned.

Let’s get started!

See Like a Scientist Exercise:

Pie Charts and Visual Distortion


In the Psychology Module we have been looking at how your perception and interpretation can be fooled by false visual signals.  In today’s See like a Scientist exercise, we will look at how visual perception ties to one of the most basic visual displays in science, the pie chart.

What are they?  Pie charts are a visual that communicate a proportion, parts compared to the greater whole (you can think of it as percentages).

Even though you see them everywhere you look, especially if you have been following the infographic movement on the internet. The Truth about lying on Resumes infographic … there are some serious concerns with the use of the visual as a means of communication.

Visit the following sites and take note of their concerns or the promise they see with this form of visual communication:


1. How Pie Chats Fail

2. In Defense of Pie Charts

3. Recycling Charts- Community Outreach

Discussion forum post:

Look at this pie chart on this website:


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