October 19th - What’s Your Goal? Choose the Most Effective Numbers for What You Want to Communicate

When we write health materials, we choose our words to support our goal. If we want to persuade the reader to do something, we choose one type of language. If we want to provide balanced information, we might choose different language.

It turns out that we need to make similar choices when it comes to numbers. When we want to describe a risk, we can choose from among several types of numbers: a percent, a frequency, a graph, or even a phrase such as “low risk.” When we want to provide test results to a patient, we might choose a table, a number line, or a term such as “normal.” All of these options can be considered number types. The evidence shows that the number types most effective for persuasion differ from the types that promotes balanced understanding of options. And different number types might help us achieve goals of being memorable or seeming credible.

Speakers:

Jessica Ancker, PhD
Weill Cornell Medical College

Brian Zikmund-Fisher, PhD
University of Michigan

Jessica Ancker, PhD

Weill Cornell Medical College

Jessica S Ancker, MPH, PhD, is Associate Professor of Health Informatics in the Department of Population Health Sciences at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. She combines her previous experience in journalism with her training in biostatistics, public health, and medical informatics to study ways to communicate numbers effectively to professionals and the public.

Brian Zikmund-Fisher, PhD

University of Michigan

Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher, Ph.D. is Professor of Health Behavior and Health Education, Research Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, and Associate Director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He is also the incoming Editor-in-Chief (2021-2025) for the journals Medical Decision Making and MDM Policy & Practice. Trained in decision psychology and behavioral economics, he designs and evaluates methods of making health data more intuitively meaningful, studies the impact of people’s consistent preferences for more versus less health care on over- and underutilization of care, and explores the power of narratives in health communications.

Anna Shao (Moderator)

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October 19th: What’s Your Goal? Choose the Most Effective Numbers for What You Want to Communicate
Recorded 10/19/2020
Recorded 10/19/2020 When we write health materials, we choose our words to support our goal. If we want to persuade the reader to do something, we choose one type of language. If we want to provide balanced information, we might choose different language. It turns out that we need to make similar choices when it comes to numbers. When we want to describe a risk, we can choose from among several types of numbers: a percent, a frequency, a graph, or even a phrase such as “low risk.” When we want to provide test results to a patient, we might choose a table, a number line, or a term such as “normal.” All of these options can be considered number types. The evidence shows that the number types most effective for persuasion differ from the types that promotes balanced understanding of options. And different number types might help us achieve goals of being memorable or seeming credible.
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