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How to Lie with Statistics Paperback – October 17, 1993
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Over Half a Million Copies Sold--an Honest-to-Goodness BestsellerDarrell 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 full rather than to inform.
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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
― New York Times
"A pleasantly subversive little book guaranteed to undermine your faith in the almighty statistic."
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company; Reissue edition (October 17, 1993)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 144 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0393310728
- ISBN-13 : 978-0393310726
- Item Weight : 3.84 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #12,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on December 30, 2015
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That's this book in a nutshell. The 'almighty' statistic is largely a matter of how you look at it. Presentation matters more than as raw data. This is a good book for those curious how you can lie with 'irrefutable' numbers. In the case of statistics, most lies are by omission.
If you ever wonder how propaganda works this is a good place to start. Also check out Milgram's experiment, read some of the commentary from Goering at the Nuremburg Trials. Try watching Kabuki theatre, anime without watching the screen (i.e. listen to the dialogue alone), Yongyea who's a voice actor and video game news junkie, John Stossel's election campaign trails interview... If you want to learn how literally millions across the globe can be duped those are all good sources to observe the process.
This book was recommended to me in passing by one of my professors when I was completing the capstone course for my BS in mathematics. Largely because of who suggested it, I expected a book about mathematical statistics. Instead, this is a book about understanding how statistical analysis can be abused (by journalists, politicians, advertisers, etc., etc.). It does not denigrate the practice of statistical analysis itself (though you will not learn even a single technique from statistical theory in its 144 pages), but rather serves as a lighthearted cautionary tale about how easy it is to become convinced that statistics carry all the weight of science even though statistical analysis is both science and art.
The reader already well-versed in statistics will not find any new information but will still be pleased by the book's artful presentation of known ideas. Readers who are not so well-versed in statistics should consider this book required reading because it succinctly explains how the information we all consume every day may have been manipulated--intentionally or otherwise--to give us false impressions.
In fact, I would argue the value of this book has only increased in the decades since its initial publication. While the reader picking up this book upon its publication in 1954 would surely encounter plenty of statistics and graphs throughout the week, our modern 24-hour news cycle and constant immersion in a multimedia world has magnified the opportunity for statistical deception. Of course, you'll find that the book's examples are outdated (references to an exorbitant $25,000 salary for Yale graduates might seem at first more quaint than informative). However, despite the dated examples, the statistical phenomena described are as relevant as ever. Indeed, an argument could be made that the examples from yesteryear might even aid the book's pedagogical value by avoiding the contemporary issues that might cause the reader to don partisan intellectual blinders.
If I were to criticize, I would say that the book fails as an introduction to statistical thinking. For example, it rightly cautions the reader to beware of the difference between median and mean when interpreting reported "averages," but fails to provide much insight regarding when each of these measures of central tendency might be superior to the other. As such, the reader looking for insight regarding the practice of statistics, even from a non-technical perspective, may be disappointed. However, the reader interested in the consumption of statistical information will find a wealth of information packed into a charming little book.
You will probably be best served in reading this book if you already know a little bit about statistics (ie: the difference between mean, median and mode, and when one might use them), but some complementary google searching while reading can fill in the blanks for those less statistically inclined.
Admittedly, it is a little bit dated, with most sources coming from a long time ago, and most references falling flat on their faces. This dated-ness doesn't take away from the content though, and should not dissuade you from getting a copy.
Top reviews from other countries
It is very simple to read, uses many examples and exposes statistics as an ideal tool for manipulation.
By omitting some data or explaining it in a different way, results could defend any argument.
It is surprising how much public opinion relies on statistics, tool that is so easy to manipulate.
I enjoy reading this book, great read 5*