For better, or for worse, materials with visuals that seem scientific, such as graphs, are more persuasive than reports, etc., without them. As Tal and Wansink determined, “The appearance of being scientific can increase persuasiveness. Even trivial cues can create such an appearance of a scientific basis. In our studies, including simple elements, such as graphs . . . or a chemical formula . . . increased belief in a medication’s efficacy. This appears to be due to the association of such elements with science, rather than increased comprehensibility, use of visuals, or recall. . . . people who have a greater belief in science are more affected by the presence of graphs. . . . trivial elements can increase public persuasion despite their not truly indicating scientific expertise or objective support.”
Aner Tal and Brian Wansink. “Blinded With Science: Trivial Graphs and Formulas Increase Ad Persuasiveness and Belief in Product Efficacy.” Public Understanding of Science, in press.