Thursday, April 7, 2016

Interesting infographic on Our Biggest Fears by Alexandra Walker

Alexandra Walker posted an infographic on her design web site. She stated that:

Our Biggest Fears is an infographic based on a survey of fears that I created and conducted after always having been interested in what causes people to be afraid, why, and how. This information architecture project focuses on the correlation of the age the fear began, how severe it is, and what type of fear it is. It also explores whether or not it’s irrational as well.

I included the unedited/filtered responses I received in the survey as well.”

She asked 120 people what their biggest fear was. 7 each said Heights and Spiders, 5 said Death, 3 Said Darkness, and just 2 said Public Speaking. (So much for the usual claim by coaches the public speaking is the greatest fear!) She plotted the unsorted results as follows:

It's a very attractive infographic. Is this an effective visualization for the data? Not really. It’s exploratory rather than explanatory. First sorting the results based either on the severity of the fear or its type would have been better. Sorted data based on severity could better be plotted via a horizontal bar chart instead of her circular bubble chart.

Because the age when fear began typically was low, her infographic resembled the blood spatter on a wall seen in an episode from the television show CSI (where the center of that pattern was blocked by a person’s head).    

Elsewhere she earlier had another infographic with a black background, which displayed the severity using bars extending radially outward. That infographic was sorted by types and it also showed the unbalanced distribution by gender. It revealed there were 93 females and just 27 males, or 22.5% male - 77.5% female. There typically are significant gender differences with women reporting more intense fears than men.

Psychologists typically ask about fears via fear survey schedules. I’ve previously blogged about several different ones that have been used. They cover a predetermined long list of fears, and ask for a rating of each one on a scale from zero to terror. Back in 1965 James H. Geer described the FSS-II with 51 fears. I blogged about how In a 1965 survey of university students, fear of public speaking ranked sixth for men and seventh for women. The most recent U.S. one (with 89 fears) was the 2015 Chapman Survey of American Fears.

The image of a terrified man was adapted from one at Wikimedia Commons

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