Should you believe the statistics

Many years ago I bought a small book, “How to lie with statistics,” by Darrell Huff.  I see that a newer edition (1993) is available at Amazon.  The edition I have is more in the form of a primer, without a lot of detail, but you can get the point.  A reviewer states:

“There is terror in numbers,” writes Darrell Huff in How to Lie with Statistics. And nowhere does this terror translate to blind acceptance of authority more than in the slippery world of averages, correlations, graphs, and trends. Huff sought to break through “the daze that follows the collision of statistics with the human mind” with this slim volume, first published in 1954. The book remains relevant as a wake-up call for people unaccustomed to examining the endless flow of numbers pouring from Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and everywhere else someone has an axe to grind, a point to prove, or a product to sell. “The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify,” warns Huff.

Well of course we have seen a lot of discussion recently about sexual assault statistics, the prevalence or lack thereof of false complaints, etc., etc., etc.  Along comes Peter Donnelly.

Now we have this at Psychlectures; “Oxford mathematician Peter Donnelly reveals the common mistakes humans make in interpreting statistics — and the devastating impact these errors can have on the outcome of criminal trials.”

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