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Stories & Data

Humans are wired for stories; the narrative. We remember things as a series of events. Details are rarely remembered in fine detail. While some very specific things will be crystal clear, the bulk of the information that passes by us is not spotted and never remembered.

Many of us are good with numbers. That said, we are not as natural with numbers as we are with images. Data turned into a graph or a picture has a much greater chance of being remembered. Even our understanding of things is heavily tilted towards lines on a page rather than a series of numbers displayed in a row or column.

We are highly selective in what we see and hear - by design rather than choice. I had an eye operation where I was able to quiz the doctor before the surgery. I told a story to explain how the eye works. The doctor said that while I was not clinically correct given the full science of the eye, the story was close enough. The story goes like this.

When you look at this page or when you look up at the scene around you, you believe you see what is there. You might be able to describe what you see and someone else might agree that they see it too. What you do not know is the physical eye and the optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain is pre-filtering. If what your eye can see represents 100% of what is possible to see, the eye only passes on 20% to the brain. The rest of the information is thrown away or otherwise not available to your brain. You are getting 20% of the full image. And your brain thinks it has the full set of data, the full image, the complete story yet that is false.

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