Andy Goodman and Stories Vs Data

February 25, 2010 //

By John Esterle

Continuing the story telling theme from my last post….

Free Range Thinking is a monthly newsletter written by Andy Goodman for “public interest communicators who want to reach more people with impact.” In this December article he cites intriguing research that explores the persuasive power of stories vs data. In this contest, the research he cites shows a clear winner: stories move people to action (in this case donating money) in a way data doesn’t. Why? Because they engage people emotionally.

No news here, but the research offers intriguing findings about what happens when you compare a stand-alone story with the same story plus statistics that put the problem in a wider context. Somewhat surprisingly, introducing statistics into the story prompts a reduction in giving. As Goodman points out though, the type of statistics employed may make a big difference.

Evidently, this article sparked so much interest Goodman decided to revisit this theme in the February issue. It’s worth reading as well as he explores “sample bias” and the power of a single story to shape opinion. The whole research literature around cognitive biases is fascinating — but let’s leave that for another post.



  1. Chris Hartman on March 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Great post! One correction though: the link to the February issue actually points to the December issue again. Here's the correct link:

  2. Pia on March 5, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Thanks for catching that, Chris!