Visualising data is definitely a very powerful tool. If I were to give you a table full of numbers, and I told you that the data “clearly” shows something, you might take a look at the tabulated data and quite possibly ignore it. However, if is presented the data in a format that is appealing to the eye, you will probably take a look and start your own interpretation.
Hans Rosling makes this point in a very interesting and quite frankly enthusing way. He plots the income per person versus life expectancy for several countries and takes us in a 200-year tour. The income per person (GDP per capita) is adjusted for inflation and for differences in costs of living (purchasing power) across countries. Catch what happens at the time of the First World War and the Spanish Flu Epidemic. Also note the behaviour of African and Asian countries. You can play with the data yourself in Gapminder World.
This is a short clip from the longer film The Joy of Stats, recently shown in BBC4. Enjoy!