Visuals for Communicating Uncertainty

Visiting the question of communicating uncertainty in Marissa’s lab meeting, focusing on this excellent Science article (Spiegelhalter et. al. 2011). Noam and Jamie are leading the discussion, and suggested we pick a few favorite examples. None on my list really address the challenge of communicating uncertainty directly, though the first one probably comes closest. I think they do highlight some of the potential and the challenges of good data visualization though, which is certainly one of the essential building blocks to visual communication of uncertainty.

the missing second block

(Spiegelhalter et. al. 2011) does a less excellent job addressing the some of the more basic problems in communicating uncertainty (though the conditional probability example comes close). Uncertainty can be immensely counter-intuitive, as Mlodinow illustrates in one of my favorite popular non-fiction books. He doesn’t tackle visuals as a way of improving our intuition on the topic. I feel a proper treatment of the topic would start with some of the easily demonstrated fallacies around uncertainty Mlodinow discusses, and illustrate if and when visualizations can improve our accuracy.