China produces 56,432,811 tons of tomatoes annually.
What are you picturing when you read this sentence?
And would it have been different if it were 28,216,405 tons of tomatoes?
A difference of 50% is huge. Yet our brain doesn’t necessarily experience it that way with large numbers.
An episode of the TV show Bullshit! explains this nicely.
Penn, an overweight American in a suit, stands behind a table. On that table are cups with chocolate candies: N&N’s.
His producer doesn’t allow him to mention brand names.
The first cups contain 1, 2, 3 and 4 N&N’s. Penn eats them and explains that he understands this well. 3 is 3 times as much as 1. But still, it’s not much.
5 to 8 N&N’s is already better: he calls them ‘a few’. And 10 to 30 N&N’s are ‘a bunch’.
There are many things Penn would like to eat ‘a bunch’ of.
Then we come to ‘a lot’ (10 bunches). And after that it’s just a big pile. An assload, a shitload, etcetera.
On the table is a cup with 2347 N&N’s. Penn explains what that means for his ‘monkey brain’: ‘more than a mother*$&#ing shitload’.
Do you ever communicate about large numbers? Try to make them relative. Or to relate them to something your audience can imagine.
Facebook has 2.9 billion users. About a third of the world’s population logs in monthly. If Facebook were a country, it would have the most inhabitants in the world.