Public Domain image "Space-Tech Lab. QA-118-REG balanced vacuum tube pre-amplifier with tube rectifier and tube regulator" from Wikimedia Commons

Public Domain image “Space-Tech Lab. QA-118-REG balanced vacuum tube pre-amplifier with tube rectifier and tube regulator” from Wikimedia Commons

In scanning the Thoughtvectors blogs and twitter stream, a lot of students/participants are well on their way starting their Inquiry Projects.

But should anyone be in search of one, I have one I started a while ago, that is free for anyone to run with. It is almost a year since last reporting on the 60,000 Times Question Remains Unanswered:

Back in May I wrote about trying to locate the source of a statement that is repeated so much, I had heard it, and accepted it as something that somewhere had a research basis- it is some variation of:

Research at 3M Corporation concluded that we process visuals 60000 times faster than text.

This is a statement that has been repeated so often on web sites, presentations, the web sites of exerpts on visual communciations, published books and articles — go ahead and google it — 42,000 hits on that exact phrase — that it takes on the allure of truth.

Or truthiness.

Except one problem.

One small problem.

There is (as far as I can tell form a lot of looking) no reliable source of that research.

Here is the problem with citations. They look concrete. A typical citation for this assertion is:

3M Corporation research cited in “Polishing Your Presentation.” 3M Meeting Network Articles & Advice (2001) [Online Article]. Available:

Except there is one problem. If you actually read that document, it is really a brochure, and the research cited is mentioned in that document as

Did you know that visual aids have been found to improve learning by up to 400 percent? Did you realize that we can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text? Would you guess that the average person only remembers about a fifth of what they hear?

These findings from behavioral research confirm our daily experience: we rely on all our senses to bring ideas and concepts to life. Effective presenters today realize that preparing to take the podium means more than having your index cards in order. As photos, illustrations, graphs and text make their way into presenters’ toolboxes, audiences are coming to expect impressive visual aids. However, high-quality images aren’t the whole story. Visuals should support you, not replace you. Use them instead to shed light on your key messages and capture the audience’s interest.

So the research is never cited, it is only vague inferred. So if you provide a citation to a source that does not provide the reference, how valid is that?

After all this time, I do not believe it exists. I have even put money on the table as a bet

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by Its.MJ

Yes, I offered a cash prize of $60 to anyone that can produce the research behind the claim. That money remains un-earned.

But the inquiry is not as much the pursuit of the answer, but more into a question of how does one counter a claim that is repeated so much that people accept it as truth?

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Kalexanderson

For a parallel example of faulty / wrong information repeated so much that it’s accepted as truth, see the debunking of Dale’s Cone of Experience. This is a fascinating challenge in an ecosystem of abundant, unchecked information.

Any takers?

My research trails to date:

$60 could be yours!

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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