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The Power of Logical Thinking: Easy Lessons in the Art of Reasoning...and Hard Facts About Its Absence in Our Lives Paperback – April 15, 1997
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From Library Journal
Savant, the Parade magazine columnist known for having the highest recorded I.Q., has written an interesting analysis of the use and misuse of statistics. Using the style of earlier books such as I've Forgotten Everything I Learned in School (LJ 1/94), she covers mathematical reasoning that seems illogical at first glance but can be explained rationally. She also presents at length (covered further in a long appendix) the controversy that has become known as the "Monty Hall dilemma" and discusses financial twists on logic and misused statistics to convey information or benefit a political candidate. (President Clinton takes the brunt of criticism in this section.) Recommended for libraries where Savant's earlier writings have been popular.?Marguerite Mroz, Baltimore Cty. P.L., Towson, Md.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Fellow English majors, arise! This book is for those of us whose brains stalled when faced with the threat of "word problems" in math class. Vos Savant shows us how even the most well educated can be semiliterate in the arts of reasoning and problem solving. She illustrates how easily we are duped by "counter-intuitive" problems whose solutions run against the grain of instinct. In part 1, vos Savant analyzes examples of these problems, including the famous "Monty Hall Dilemma" that initiated a deluge of mail from irate mathematicians after she posed it in her Sunday column. Part 2 unveils how easy it is to misunderstand mean-spirited statistics. This section also contains fascinatingly thorough descriptions of every conceivable verbal fallacy--a tour de force to delight the number-impaired. Part 3 is an eye-opening analysis of the ways politicians use statistics, "selective logic," and faulty reasoning to sway our votes. Vos Savant's clear, logical approach to convoluted problems is a tonic for anyone who feels queasy around economics, statistics, word problems, or politicians. Patricia Hassler
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The book starts with what has become the on-going cause celebre of "The Monty Hall Dilemma." Some years ago, a reader innocently asked about the best strategy to employ on the "Let's Make a Deal Show" when guessing which of three doors hid a valuable prize. Marilyn's answer provoked a firestorm of protest. Many of the people who most vehemently disagreed with her answer were mathematics or physics professors. Marilyn's original answer was correct, and finally, after many rounds of point and counter-point, she managed to convince most of her critics. However, people continue to explore the implications of her statistical analysis. Some have even found imbedded in Marilyn's answer to this question a challenge to the way experiments in the field of quantum mechanics have traditionally been interpreted. The discovery of the nature of reality could hinge on an understanding of "Let's Make a Deal" strategy! Portions of this continued exploration into the problem's implications are presented in the book's first chapter and in a lengthy Appendix.
Another example of one of Marilyn's very surprising (and in this case, very comforting) statistical proofs is presented in her section on interpreting the results of medical tests. It turns out that if you test positive for some disease or condition, even having used a presumably very accurate assay - the chances are still very small that you actually have that disease. Most doctors don't come close to realizing this. They assume that one positive test result is close to proof of your having the disease, and they often proceed accordingly with aggressive interventions. By following Marilyn's reasoning and advice on this topic - you could save your life.
Then in the last section of the book, Marilyn provides insights into many of the statistics politicians invariably throw around to "prove" that the other guy ran the Country into the ground, while their own Party ushered in an unprecedented period of prosperity. Although this book was written in 1996, it is surprisingly relevant to the 2009 recession. Most of Marilyn's advice about how to appraise politicians' figures regarding wages, unemployment, and purchasing power, might seem to come from a strong conservative perspective. However, whatever your politics, I think you'll find it hard to refute most of her conclusions.
The one element she didn't quite seem to anticipate about our current collapse is the role virtual loans played in the problem. Marilyn states that money can only be made by the government - when it prints it or creates deficits. She doesn't take into consideration the way in which credit card companies, banks, and mortgage houses in effect create money when they "advance" or "loan" money. However, this omission doesn't invalidate Marilyn's many telling cautions about how to view the statistics with which we're bombarded every day.
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