## Pie Charts in Graphical Representation: 10 Quotes

“In general, the comparison of two circles of different size should be strictly avoided. Many excellent works on statistics approve the comparison of circles of different size, and state that the circles should always be drawn to represent the facts on an area basis rather than on a diameter basis. The rule, however, is not always followed and the reader has no way of telling whether the circles compared have been drawn on a diameter basis or on an area basis, unless the actual figures for the data are given so that the dimensions may be verified.” (Willard C Brinton, “Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts”, 1919)

“Although the pie or sector chart ranks very high in popular appeal, it is held in rather low esteem by many specialists in graphic presentation. Since the pie chart possesses more weaknesses perhaps than most graphic forms, it is especially important to observe proper discretion in its construction and application. The pie chart is used to portray component relations. The various sectors of a circle represent component parts of an aggregate or total.” (Calvin F Schmid, “Handbook of Graphic Presentation”, 1954)

“Pie charts have weaknesses and dangers inherent in their design and application. First, it is generally inadvisable to attempt to portray more than four or five categories in a circle chart, especially if several small sectors are of approximately the same size. It may be very confusing to differentiate the relative values. Secondly, the pie chart loses effectiveness if an effort is made to compare the component values of several circles, as might occur in a temporal or geographical series. […] Thirdly, although values are measured by distances along the arc of the circle, there is a tendency to estimate values in terms of areas by size of angle. The 100-percent bar chart is often preferable to the circle chart’s angle and area comparison as it is easier to divide into parts, more convenient to use, has sections that may be shaded for contrast with grouping possible by bracketing, and has an easily readable percentage scale outside the bars.” (Anna C Rogers, “Graphic Charts Handbook”, 1961)

“The varieties of circle charts are necessarily limited by the lack of basic design variation — a circle is a circle! Also, a circle can be considered as representing only one unit of area. regardless of its size. Thus, circle charts have limited applications, i.e., to show how a given quantity (area) is divided among its component parts,’ or to show changes in the variable by showing area changes. A circle chart almost always presents some form of a part-to-total relationship.” (Cecil H Meyers, “Handbook of Basic Graphs: A modern approach”, 1970)

“Pie charts are awkward to label and do not fit as well on a report page as bar comparisons (vertical or horizontal). Thus a series of pies is less effective than a series of subdivided bars (or columns) for comparing a group of subdivided totals. Several pies require much more space than several bars. Moreover, the comparable components often are in a different location in each pie and so are hard to compare.” (Peter H Selby, “Interpreting Graphs and Tables”, 1976)

“Pie charts have severe perceptual problems. Experiments in graphical perception have shown that compared with dot charts, they convey information far less reliably. But if you want to display some data, and perceiving the information is not so important, then a pie chart is fine.” (Richard Becker & William S Cleveland,” S-Plus Trellis Graphics User’s Manual”, 1996)

“This pie chart violates several of the rules suggested by the question posed in the introduction. First, immediacy: the reader has to turn to the legend to find out what the areas represent; and the lack of color makes it very difficult to determine which area belongs to what code. Second, the underlying structure of the data is completely ignored. Third, a tremendous amount of ink is used to display eight simple numbers.” (Gerald van Belle, “Statistical Rules of Thumb”, 2002)

“We make angle judgments when we read a pie chart, but we don’t judge angles very well. These judgments are biased; we underestimate acute angles (angles less than 90°) and overestimate obtuse angles (angles greater than 90°). Also, angles with horizontal bisectors (when the line dividing the angle in two is horizontal) appear larger than angles with vertical bisectors.” (Naomi B Robbins, “Creating More effective Graphs”, 2005)

“The donut, its spelling betrays its origins, is nearly always more deceit friendly than the pie, despite being modelled on a life-saving ring. This is because the hole destroys the second most important value- defining element, by hiding the slice angles in the middle.” (Nicholas Strange, “Smoke and Mirrors: How to bend facts and figures to your advantage”, 2007)

“When it comes to presenting categorical data, pie charts allow an impression of the size of each category relative to the whole pie, but are often visually confusing, especially if they attempt to show too many categories in the same chart, or use a three-dimensional representation that distorts areas. […] Multiple pie charts are generally not a good idea, as comparisons are hampered by the difficulty in assessing the relative sizes of areas of different shapes. Comparisons are better based on height or length alone in a bar chart.” (David Spiegelhalter, “The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data”, 2019)

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