Rare use of data in an effective propaganda poster

This is from Bill Gates. I have not vetted the content of the chart, but I assume it is true and correct.

11846782_10153056365851961_3925275655836962127_nTL;DR Summary

  • The point of this poster is to illustrate R&D spending on 3 categories: Defense, health and energy. It is effective in part due to its simplicity and use of  data.
  • Data is not used often in propaganda posters because emotional appeals and pithy quotes are processed quickly by our System 1 thinking.

Data requires System 2 thinking to analyze and reason with the data. That is where people’s eyes glaze over and their brains go numb. For that reason, most propaganda appeals to “plausible” gut-level reactions. Even when wrong, such propaganda is accepted as truth, shared, and becomes established as “fact”.

Simplifying System 2 data into a simple visual like this enables the viewer to engage their System 1 thinking and quickly make a decision – yep, seems plausible! And draw a conclusion: “Wow! We should spend more money on energy research!”.

Good charts can be a very effective means of propaganda.

Therefore, this is a very effective propaganda post, implemented well and surprisingly incorporating data – yet enabling a quick, intuitive System 1 gut-level response.