On a daily basis, media, businesses, government agencies, non-profit groups and others, toss out loads of statistics: “4 out of 5 doctors recommend it”, “the average income is…”, “highest crime rate since…”, “43% approval rating”.
Many are inclined to assume these statements are accurate. Why would they tout these statistics otherwise?
But looking at the methodology used to derive these statements, the fact is not all statistics are “true”. Though some of these biases are unintentional, there are many statistics which are designed to intentionally mislead in order to favor a desired outcome so it can be presented as a “scientifically-reached consensus”! Yep! And from all ideological leanings, too!
“How to Lie with Statistics”, by Darrell Huff and illustrated by Irving Geis, is a very fun, quick and entertaining read which examines the world of statistics in our daily lives and how those numbers we hear may not always be correct!
Originally printed in 1954, it is amazing how incredibly relevant this book continues to be!
Check out some of these chapter titles: The Sample with the Built-In Bias, The Well-Chosen Average, The Little Figures That are Not There, Much Ado About Nothing, The Gee-Whiz Graphic.
This is a great book for everyone, because it helps us to take an objective viewpoint when we hear or read statistics, allowing us to unpack their methods and discover the truth for ourselves.
Critical thinking—can’t ask for better!
Plus, the illustrations, albeit of the era, are fun and whimsical, helping the author express his points, especially about “visual” statistics—some of the more dubious ones!
As the historical figure Benjamin Disraeli once said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Enjoy and look at the world in a whole new way!
Ed & Cynthia Justus are the owners of The Bookstore in Hanapepe.