How To Lie with Statistics Paperback – Sep 7 1993
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"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.
Although many of the examples used in the book are charmingly dated, the cautions are timeless. Statistics are rife with opportunities for misuse, from "gee-whiz graphs" that add nonexistent drama to trends, to "results" detached from their method and meaning, to statistics' ultimate bugaboo--faulty cause-and-effect reasoning. Huff's tone is tolerant and amused, but no-nonsense. Like a lecturing father, he expects you to learn something useful from the book, and start applying it every day. Never be a sucker again, he cries!
Even if you can't find a source of demonstrable bias, allow yourself some degree of skepticism about the results as long as there is a possibility of bias somewhere. There always is.
Read How to Lie with Statistics. Whether you encounter statistics at work, at school, or in advertising, you'll remember its simple lessons. Don't be terrorized by numbers, Huff implores. "The fact is that, despite its mathematical base, statistics is as much an art as it is a science." --Therese Littleton
A hilarious exploration of mathematical mendacity…. Every time you pick it up, what happens? Bang goes another illusion! — The New York Times
In one short take after another, Huff picks apart the ways in which marketers use statistics, charts, graphics and other ways of presenting numbers to baffle and trick the public. The chapter “How to Talk Back to a Statistic” is a brilliant step-by-step guide to figuring out how someone is trying to deceive you with data. — Wall Street Journal
A great introduction to the use of statistics, and a great refresher for anyone who's already well versed in it. — Bill Gates
Mr. Huff's lively, human-interest treatment of the dry-as-bones subject of statistics is a timely tonic…This book needed to be written, and makes its points in an entertaining, highly readable manner. — Management Review
Illustrator and author pool their considerable talents to provide light lively reading and cartoon far which will entertain, really inform, and take the wind out of many an overblown statistical sail. — Library Journal
A pleasantly subversive little book, guaranteed to undermine your faith in the almighty statistic. — Atlantic
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He also mentions that colleagues have told him that the flurry of meaningless statistics is due to incompetence--he dispatches this argument with a simple query: "Why, then, do the numbers almost always favor the person quoting them?" Huff also provides five questions (not unlike the five d's of dodgeball) for readers to ask, when confronted with a statistic:
1. Who says so?
2. How does he know?
3. What's missing?
4. Did somebody change the subject?
5. Does it make sense?
All this is wrapped up in a book with simple examples (no math beyond arithmetic, really) and quaint 1950s prose. In addition humor runs from the beginning (the dedication is "To my wife with good reason") to the end (on page 135, Huff says "Almost anybody can claim to be first in something if he is not too particular what it is"). This book is well worth a couple hours of your time.
The book was originally published in 1954. The many copious examples were current at the time of writing, but are extremely dated now. Depending on the readers attitude this may be distracting, or faintly amusing. The advanced age of the examples does not make the text any harder to understand.
While the examples are dated, the concepts appear to be timeless. The same statistical manipulations still seem to be going on nearly fifty years later. The Author covers a wide range of statistical errors, or abuse. All of the types of errors will be familiar to anyone who pays attention to the news, or has seen an advertisement that uses numbers.
How to Lie with Statistics gives the reader the knowledge to detect common statistical skulduggery. If this knowledge were more widely spread, perhaps advertisers, political spinmiesters and sloppy journalists would not be able to get away with that sort of abuse.
How often have you went into a presentation, saw the colourful graphics and accepted the information being portrayed to you as realistic? You might have had suspicions about several things but did not have enough back bone to speak up or contest those figures because you simply did not know what questions to ask.
This book guides one through the maze of statistics, their misuse through wrong calculations and unconcious optial illusions of graphs to influence our perception of the way we view a situation.
When management, a salesperson or a politician starts talking about averages on a graph; Ask them which average are they actually talking about. Are they talking about the average mean, average mode or average median? I actually started inquiring with authors of previous presentations that I have received in the past. Some of the experts presenting these facts and figures did not know the calaculations used to atttain their results because they had acquired them from 3rd or 4th sources. It shows how many clueless presentors we have in this world.
Sampeling is another one of those statistics some of us forget to ask about. When we see figures indicating 30 percent "YES" verses 70 percent "NO" from any given survey. Seventy percent of how many people said "NO"? Did they ask 100, 200, 600 or 1,000 people? Did they interview men, women, children, dogs or snails? Were the questions biased toward one group or the other? All of these questions are very important and the majority of the people fail to ask these questions when being presented with statisics.
Some of the language is old and outdated but it is exactly this which makes it a charm to read. Excellent, Excellent.....
The problems with statistical data are still relevant today, and it is shocking to realize how contemporary many of his examples seem. The problems of bias, averaging, and confusing correlation with causation all dupe even the most well-educated people, and the advantage lies with the person who can spot fallacies and not be fooled. While learning statistics would be ideal, this book shows the first step towards understanding and critiquing statistical data. It is not longer or more complicated than it should be, and is simple to understand. Still, if you don't know how to evaluate some of the simple data that you come by every day in the news, this book will provide you with infinite wisdom.
Most recent customer reviews
One must read this book. This book shows you how this world lies to you with numbers...Published 10 days ago by Amazon Customer
Most excellent insight into the tall tales people can tell with "indisputable" numbers. A classic.Published 18 days ago by Pam
VERY basic statistics that most people learn in school. Every now and then the author brings up something interesting, but overall I found it was not presenting anything new. Read morePublished 2 months ago by van2010
Charming book. The examples are a bit dated but still relevant. Honestly, the reference to American elections and world events that predate me just lead me to look them up; which... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Stephan Rayner
I am very familiar with statistics. I found this book very instructive and clear, with a funny way of telling the story. To recommend.Published 6 months ago by Martin Ridano
This book puts into perspective statistics in science and how the obvious may not be correct at all unfortunately. The brain can be turned off when statistics is presented to it.Published 12 months ago by Graham
Although the language and examples used are quite dated (the book is over 60 years old) ‘How to lie with Statistics’ provides very easy to understand examples of the various... Read morePublished 17 months ago by John Schaub
Good write-up of the power of numbers wielded inappropriately (by chance or by design). If you are not deep into mathematics in general and statistics in particular, this is a must... Read morePublished 21 months ago by JohnV
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