creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by caddymob

It’s time to start issuing citations for pooping on the internet. The sheer irony of what came in via a trackback (still value among the flotilla of spam) to my still un-solved pursuit to find the source, the actual credible source, for the oft asserted “””fact””” (triple scare quotes) that “visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text”.

Please keep the internet clean and never NEVER EVER use that assertion in any form. Unless you like poop smell.

And here is the poop piled irony- someone actually used my post doubting the existence of this fact as a citation of its existence. In fact, the entire “”””article”””” ought to be strip searched for credibility.

The odor commences with the title A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – And About 50 Milliseconds from the revered wisdom of AlignTech Solutions “Positioning you to grow your business” (growth can be achieved with a proper dose of fertilizer).


I must quote the opening, where I get first link credit for a bull**** statement:

Aside from shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre (illegal and not recommended), visuals trump words when it comes to quick, clear communication.

In fact, “visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text, graphics quickly affect our emotions, and our emotions greatly affect our decision-making,” according to Mike Parkinson in The Power of Visual Communication. In addition, the brain deciphers image elements simultaneously, while language is decoded in a linear, sequential manner that takes longer to process. Plus research by Edgar Dale shows the retention rate of visual information is double the retention rate for reading.

So why does author Tim Holdsworth cite a link to my blog post as a citation for the (wrongly repeated) assertion in Mike Parkinson’s book? When he could have linked to it directly??

I will tell you why. Because the author googled a phrased, and mine was listed higher than Parkinson’s (maybe). Because if he read my post, the author night have found a different source.

But let’s put my vanity aside. Let’s follow on to this carefully researched piece of writing.

Holdsworth cites (and not to the source but to one of thousands of replications of the faulty diagram) the already well proven WRONG and MIS-APPROPRIATED interpretation of Dale’s Cone of Experience – this has been thoroughly roasted and skewered by Will Thalheimer. Edgar Dale never did the research the diagram was based on.

And then of course we get:

It takes roughly 50 milliseconds for people to form an opinion about a website and determine whether they’ll stay and read the content or leave.

How rough is 50 milliseconds? I formed an opinion of AlignTech Solutions site in maybe 72.

Follow the link to the source of the assertion. What you get is an abstract:

Three studies were conducted to ascertain how quickly people form an opinion about web page visual appeal. In the first study, participants twice rated the visual appeal of web homepages presented for 500 ms each. The second study replicated the first, but participants also rated each web page on seven specific design dimensions. Visual appeal was found to be closely related to most of these. Study 3 again replicated the 500 ms condition as well as adding a 50 ms condition using the same stimuli to determine whether the first impression may be interpreted as a ‘mere exposure effect’ (Zajonc 1980). Throughout, visual appeal ratings were highly correlated from one phase to the next as were the correlations between the 50 ms and 500 ms conditions. Thus, visual appeal can be assessed within 50 ms, suggesting that web designers have about 50 ms to make a good first impression.

Downloading the article would cost me $41 (and that is another whole smelly pile of dung). Did AlignTech read the study? Did they see if the subject size is relevant or the conditions comparable?

“Moral of the story?” Aligntech has zero credibility in my book. Their writing is steeped in poop.

And still it goes on. People continually write the unproven assertions and even document it with an official looking citation to a document that does not contain the research the assertion is based on.

The CogDog Grand Prize ($60) for locating the research credit for the assertion that “visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text” STILL stands unclaimed.

60 clams could be yours.

And do not repeat these clichés please! Take your internet poop home

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Joel Abroad

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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.


  1. So now these two zombie ideas (60000x and The Learning Pyramid) are breeding together. I still come across people promulgating them at conferences or professional development workshops. Whenever that happens their credibility rating drops into negative numbers. I usually try to quietly mention something to them afterward about the “research”, or lack thereof, that is easily uncovered online. (It always feels a little awkward but in the tension between not wanting to come across as a schmuck and countering ignorance, countering ignorance wins.)

    In this case the irony is overwhelmingly painful that someone should cite your post in support of either idea.

    It all just makes you want to forget about vaccinating your kids stop worrying about global warming and love the National Training Laboratories in Bethel Maine. Not.

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