A Synopsis of How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff
When most people hear or read a statistic, they quickly have to decide if the numbers listed are valid or invalid. It is usually assumed that the author of the statistic is knowledgeable in the field to which the statistic pertains. However, on many occasions, the statistic is false, due to the author’s wording. Darrell Huff’s novel How to Lie with Statistics is a manual that can help individuals catch these lies. The novel allows readers to solve marketing ploys and dismiss certain statistics as faulty.
The first chapter focuses on bias. The book states that all statistics are based on samples, and these samples have bias. This means that no matter what the reader will have a biased opinion. This bias is spawned from the respondents replying dishonesty, the author choosing a sample that gives better results, and the availability of data. Huff uses a survey of readership of two magazines, which had refuting results. This is because, due to the readers’ personal biases, they answered the survey dishonestly. This example closes the chapter, teaching readers to always assume that the sample has a bias. The second chapter focuses on averages. It states that there are actually three types of averages: mean, median, and mode. Mean is the arithmetic average. Median is the name given to the midpoint of the date. Finally, mode is the data point that occurs the most often in the data. Thus, the type of average used can alter the results of the statistics. The next chapter explains how sample data is chosen to prove certain results. Many marketing campaigns use this technique. They choose sample sizes that give their wanted results. Huff’s solution is that one must determine if the information is a discrete quantity or if a range is involved. The following chapter discusses errors in measurement. It explains two measures for measuring error: Probable Error and Standard Error. The probable error uses the error in...
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