Wednesday, March 21, 2007

How to Lie With Statistics

I've just been re-reading this classic book, which arrived in my letterbox last week. I'm overjoyed to have it back on my bookshelf after an absence of too many years. How to Lie with Statistics is a highly readable exposé of the bumbling and chicanery carried out with statistics, and by those who use them.

The Gee-Whiz Graph -- a graph in which the bottom is cut off to make a small change more dramatic (that's one, there at right) -- the Sample With the Built-In Bias, the Well-Chosen Average, the One-Dimensional Picture, the Semiattached Figure, Post Hoc and Statisticulation: all these and more are explained and exposed here, and you'll see plenty of examples of all of them almost every day in your newspaper and on your TV, in scientific journals and political manifestos, and of course all the way through Al Gore's movies.

How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff: Essential self-defence in a world where surveys, polls and dubious science are so frequently used to fleece us.

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