A reader likes the four-point perception range chart

January 14, 2013

(This article was originally published at Junk Charts, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

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Perception-abstrusegooseRobert Kosara wrote a rebuttal to my previous post on the chart that shows the human's visual and audio ranges of perception in a box. Here is his full post. The chart under discussion is shown on the right. It appeared at the Abstruse Goose site.

Like me, he has obviously spent time thinking about four points on a chart. I have to say I'm not convinced by his points.


Kosara writes:

The point of this chart is not to communicate a lot of data or to inform, but merely to entertain and perhaps to make people pause and think for a moment.

I buy the first part of the sentence only. For me, the chart is misleading unless, as I said last time, we are told how much important stuff we are missing in the dark regions.

Think of this analogy: for some people, to realize that there are planets, galaxies and universes beyond our own is a wow moment. I need to know more. If you are told that no life exists outside planet earth, that the rest is barren and nothingness, are you still as fascinated?


Kosara likes the log-log axes, saying first:

That provides an interesting comparison, that I don’t think a lot of people have seen before.


The difference in light frequencies contains the sound frequencies many billions of times.


Our perception largely works in a logarithmic way.

My point was that light and sound are measured on completely different scales. To plot them in a bivariate chart would require some kind of standardization. I'd imagine if we can figure out the minimum perceptible difference for each dimension, we'd have made some headway.

That third comment really intrigues me. I have never liked log charts. I always find that audiences can't read them. They have to imagine that each layer is 10 times the size of the one below even though visually they appear exactly the same. In my experience, it leads to underestimating the large values, and massively exaggerating the importance of tiny differences on the small end of the axis. I'd be intrigued to see some scientific studies that show that logarithmic perception is natural.



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