How to Lie With Statistics

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How to Lie With Statistics

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Skepticism, Fallacies and Critical Thinking



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Statistics themselves don't lie. However, the improper use of statistics can lead to erroneous conclusions. When proper, statistically sound data gathering and analysis methods are employed, the statistics not only do not lie, but they also reveal the nature and extent of the errors inherent in the results.


The book was pub'd in 1954, but still relevant. E.g., folks looking at latest survey showing a correlation between certain food and certain health problems or benefits should read this book's "Post Hoc Rides Again", in which people erroneously leap from statistical correlation to a cause-and-effect relationship.E.g., a report that purportedly found smokers had lower grades in college; hence, thought researcher, smokers wishing to improve their grades should stop smoking. Of course, a statistical study showing that there's a "significant" relation between smoking and low grades doesn't show which causes the other -- perhaps educational failure draws people to smoke. Perhaps, the type of person who is given to smoking is also given to not doing well in school; instead of cause and effect, one has a correlation from a shared, third (and unnamed) cause. These "logical" (illogical) fallacies are incorporated into the news every day.

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