Statistics/Displaying Data/Pictograms

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A pictogram is simply a picture that conveys some statistical information. A very common example is the thermometer graph so common in fund drives. The entire thermometer is the goal (number of dollars that the fund raisers wish to collect. The red stripe (the "mercury") represents the proportion of the goal that has already been collected.

Another example is a picture that represents the gender constitution of a group. Each small picture of a male figure might represent 1,000 men and each small picture of a female figure would, then, represent 1,000 women. A picture consisting of 3 male figures and 4 female figures would indicate that the group is made up of 3,000 men and 4,000 women.

An interesting pictograph is the Chernoff Faces. It is useful for displaying information on cases for which several variables have been recorded. In this kind of plot, each case is represented by a separate picture of a face. The sizes of the various features of each face are used to present the value of each variable. For instance, if blood pressure, high density cholesterol, low density cholesterol, body temperature, height, and weight are recorded for 25 individuals, 25 faces would be displayed. The size of the nose on each face would represent the level of that person's blood pressure. The size of the left eye may represent the level of low density cholesterol while the size of the right eye might represent the level of high density cholesterol. The length of the mouth could represent the person's temperature. The length of the left ear might indicate the person's height and that of the right ear might represent their weight. Of course, a legend would be provided to help the viewer determine what feature relates to which variable. Where it would be difficult to represent the relationship of all 6 variables on a single (6-dimensional) graph, the Chernoff Faces would give a relatively easy to interpret 6-dimensional representation.