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How To Lie With Statistics [Paperback]

Darrell Huff , Irving Geis
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1993
Darrell Huff runs the gamut of every popularly used type of statistic, probes such things as the sample study, the tabulation method, the interview technique, or the way the results are derived from the figures, and points up the countless number of dodges which are used to fool rather than inform.

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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 pleasantly subversive little book, guaranteed to undermine your faith in the almighty statistic. -- The Atlantic

This book needed to be written, and makes its points in an entertaining, highly readable manner. -- Management Review

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"THE AVERAGE Yaleman, Class of '24," Time magazine noted once, commenting on something in the New York Sun, "makes $25,111 a year." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By JohnV
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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. For me, I didn't really learn anything new, but still was satisfied with my purchase.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent old book April 24 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a gift for my randson who is struggling a bit with statistics. The book makes it fun and demystifies the topic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!!! July 25 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A must read for anyone who's ever wondered how there are so many statistics and metrics flying around that all seem to contradict each other. Very well written, youll fly through this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Defend yourself from the number-tossers July 4 2004
By Dan
How to Lie with Statistics, by Darrel Huff, should be required reading for everyone. The cachet of numbers are used all the time in modern society. Usually to end arguments--after all, who can argue with "facts"? Huff shows how the same set of numbers can be tweaked to show three different outcomes, depending on where you start and what you use. The fundamental lesson I learned from this book is that mathematical calculation involves a whole set of conditions, and any number derived from such a calculation is meaningless without understanding those conditions.
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.
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Although "How to Lie with Statistics" is a bit dated (having been written in the 1950's), the principles it puts forth are still valid today--if not moreso than ever--and the material is delivered in clear, concise, and even entertaining anecdotes and illustrations.
How often do you hear statistics bandied about in the media or used to try to prove some special-interest point? "Of course" the people quoting the figures must be right with numbers on their sides... until you look at just how those numbers were arrived at.
This book isn't truly a guide on how to lie with statistics, but it is an excellent text that informs the reader both how others will lie to them using statistics and on how to interpret the validity of purported statistical data.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, Concise, and Fun Oct. 30 2003
By Brian
How to Lie with Statistics is a fun and informative look at the was in which statisticians try to decieve the public with misleading statistics. Every chapter contains plenty of real-world examles that provide excellent insight into the concepts. The book is a quick read (only 142 pages) and it holds the reader's attention; both are necessities for an educational work. How to Lie with Statistics is perfect for the beginning statistics student or anyone who wants to learn how they can be decieved through the manipulation of numbers. The reading level and math make this more appropriate for high school or college students than for younger students. Using three randomly selected paragraphs, the mean Flesch-Kincaid grade level was 10.4; thus this book is excellent for sophomores or advanced freshman. Although the writing is a little dated (1954), it is still clear and highly relevant. Overall, this is a highly recommended and worthwhile read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun to read, a lot to learn for many Aug. 21 2003
If you are a visual person -who prefers graphics and charts to text- and have taken no statistics course in your entire life, this book is a perfect fit for you. If you are a well-educated statistician, but do not know how to apply your tricks in advertisement or publishing industry, the book will work for you, too. Finally, if you are graphic designer working for one of the magazines or creating charts for corporate reports, you can also have a lot of fun by just realizing that now a lot of people know about your tricks. Although the book is written more than 50 years ago, it is still very up-to-date, due to the concept it is targeting: people are still trying to make you believe in things that do not exist by using fancy charts and unrealistically accurate numbers.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A world of liars Aug. 12 2003
I had to read this book for my high school AP statistics class. I truly enjoyed reading this book. My dad had to read the same while he was in college 30 years ago. We were able to discuss the book. Huff was very insightful but humorous at the same time. This book helped me to learn how much goes into statistics and the way that they use their data however they want to. It was a fun way to learn not only about math but about the way that people use that math. It was interesting that even though the book was written over 50 years ago that his examples still worked and I could relate to things he said. I would recommend it to anyone high school level or above especially if you plan on taking or using statistics in your life.
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