Information overload: 3 in 10 say their brain ‘shuts down’ when they hear the word ‘data’

NEW YORK — More than seven in 10 Americans suffer from “data dread.” A survey of 2,000 adults finds that 29 percent admit their brain “shuts down” when they see or hear the word “data.” For more than a fifth (21%), it’s because they simply aren’t interested, and 35 percent admit they find it boring.

Survey results show as many as 31 percent can’t comprehend that a quarter of a pie chart equates to 25 percent and more than one in 10 (13%) thought a “Helix Chart” was a real thing – and not a complete invention. Despite 59 percent actively trying to avoid dealing with figures and data, 54 percent believe that, in the current economic climate, improving their data skills would put them at an advantage.

Conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Datacamp to raise awareness of data literacy as a fundamental skill, the study finds a quarter also believe better data skills would give them better career opportunities and allow them to deal with bills better each month.

However, just over a fifth (22%) confess they find it difficult to digest everyday information like bank statements or data-led news articles.

Many just fake it when it comes to data

Regardless of the nation’s day-to-day interactions with data, more than half (54%) admit to sometimes simply smiling and nodding along to a conversation about data and statistics, even if they’re completely in the dark. Moreover, 35 percent say that they rely on their friends, partner, or family members to take on any data analysis they may need in daily life.

“We’re in the middle of a paradigm shift and even if you don’t work with data, you need to know how to read and interpret data in places like the news, health apps, and phone usage reviews,” says Martijn Theuwissen, co-founder of DataCamp, in a statement. “Nobody should dread data — it can really empower individuals to make informed decisions and improve their personal and professional lives. We want to encourage people to consider data literacy a vital skill in everyday life.”

Concerningly, this could include reviewing mortgage rates, loan options, or energy prices.

“While most people might not be looking for a specific career in the data industry, many employers are looking for data skills across a variety of roles in sales, finance, HR, logistics, and more,” adds Theuwissen. “Building these skills can help you to find a new career or excel further in your current position.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 nationally representative Americans was commissioned by Datacamp between August 25 and August 31, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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