The other day a tweet caught my eye that used a myth to get you to click a link. Worse, clicking the link led to another myth. These are folks I think are generally good, and it seems that their actual offering made sense, but the approach does not. It’s just more marketing myths, drawing upon common misconstruals, and that’s not a good thing. I think it’s worth calling out.
It’s like the claim that we’ve dropped to the ‘attention span of a goldfish’ to argue for shorter ads, learning, etc. That, of course, was a misinterpretation of data, with only a couple of implausibilities. First, how do you measure the attention span of a goldfish? More importantly, how would we evolutionarily change our cognitive architecture in the span of a few years? Er, no. Attention’s complex, and the argument is spurious. (Ever disappear into a novel/game/book and surface several hours later wondering where the time went? Yeah, that.)
In this case, they were supporting a proposition that makes sense. Instead of just having a research report, they’re suggesting a summary video. Yep, having a dynamic visual presentation of data is a supportable argument. As Jill Larkin & Herb Simon argued in their Cognitive Science article, Why A Diagram is (Sometimes) Worth Ten Thousand Words, it’s about mapping conceptual relationships to spatial relationships to allow our strong spatial processing to assist.
What was wrong was that the lead-in in the tweet was saying “65% of the population are visual learners.” Er, no. That’s the learning styles myth. First, there aren’t reliable instruments. Further, people change depending on what’s to be learned, why, where, when, and more. We learn visually, and auditorily, and kinesthetically, and… Suggesting that we know how many people are a type of learner is basically wrong.
They went on to say “..enhances knowledge delivery by catering to how people want to learn.” There’s research to say that’s not a good basis, either. The relationship between people’s preferences and what’s effective is pretty close to zero.
It gets worse. When I clicked on the link, it took me to this claim: “Studies show that people remember…10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, 80% of what they see and do”. Nope. That’s the Dale’s Cone myth, and that’s been shown to be made up. You should indeed remember more of what you do, but reading is seeing, and depending on context, hearing might be best, and…This is even worse, conflating seeing and doing. Dale never added numbers, and the numbers just aren’t plausible anyways, being too perfect.
So, really, three myths for the price of two. It’s more marketing myths in service of selling you things. The most important part is that you don’t need to do this! There are perfectly good, comprehensible ways to push this message without relying on myths. Please, be wary, be leery, be a skeptical consumer. Caveat emptor!
Guy Wallace says
Thank you Clark for continuing the fight!