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This book lays the groundwork for the many ways statistics are used to mislead people. Honest people must learn the tricks of statistics so that they can interpret data intelligently.

How to Lie with Statistics

How to Lie with Statistics

by Darrell Huff

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12.1K reads

The abused statistic

Averages, relationships, trends and graphs are not what they seem. Statistics can make an important fact look as if it is nothing noteworthy and a trivial fact like there may be more in it.

Writers need statistical methods and statistical terms when reporti...

“The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify.”

The representative sample

For any statistic to be worth it, it should come from a representative sample of the group it is describing. But a representative sample is near impossible because of lack of time, resources, and other practical reasons. As a result, you are more likely t...

There are three common kinds of average:

  1. Mean. Add up all the values and divide by the quantity of the values.
  2. Median. The value in the middle of the sample.
  3. Mode. The most common value.

If you want to use a test to measure something or somebody, it is equally important to know the limitations of the test. What can it not measure? 

For example, an intelligence test does not measure leadership, creative imagination, diligence, and emotio...

“As long as the errors remain one-sided, it is not easy to attribute them to bungling or accident.”

Statistics are often used to support a cause or agenda a person believes in, rather than to disprove them. When people err in their use of statistics, it is ...

“‘Does it make sense?’ will often cut a statistic down to size when the whole rigmarole is based on an unproved assumption.”

Consider what they are saying and why they are saying it. If a statistic doesn’t seem right, or someone arrives at a conclu...

It describes using one thing as a way to claim proof of something else, even if there exists no correlation between the two.

Meaningless statements:

  • “32% of doctors think Mercedes vehicles are safe."
  • “27 % of a large sample of eminent phy...

If B follows A, then A has caused B.

For example:

  • Assuming that since smoking and low grades go together, smoking causes low grades.
  • If you attend college, you will earn more money than if you decide to use the next four years in another way. The unwarran...

How to avoid blind belief in statistics

  1. Who says so? What is the agenda? Who will benefit from presenting the data that way? Does it tell the whole story or only the good or bad part? Does it misuse average? Does any bias come into play?
  2. How do they know? Where did the data come from? Is i...

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