The “fact” has been used by countless digital marketers and visual storytellers over the past 30 years. It’s so pervasive, in fact, that no one bothers to research its original source. That is, until blogger Alan Levine made it his mission to discover the truth.
If lack of evidence is enough to debunk a myth, then Levine accomplished the goal. On the occasion, the assertion does reference a source, citing 3M “internal research.” And the statement was found in an old 3M brochure, but no specific research has ever been uncovered.
Levine was even able to track an early claim to a 1982 article in Business Week. There, Computer Pictures Corporation’s then-president Philip Cooper said, “people assimilate visual information about 60,000 times faster than they assimilate printed copy.” But Cooper didn’t provide any evidence to back up his claim. Cooper, who is now a lecturer at MIT, has declined to comment on his source.
None of that has stopped the claim from being repeated as though it were fact in a plethora of infographics, articles and books, as well as on more than 195,000 websites referenced by Google.