You are likely to encounter statistics in vast amounts both in your work and in your daily life. It can be daunting to process all this data while remaining accurate when reporting on them. To get the most out of statistics, and the data they provide there are three convenient self-defence mechanisms you can use.
It is for example important to remain vigilant of a phenomenon known as the Polluted Poll. A statistic might for example claim that 85% of the members of a certain committee all agree that a certain policy is a terrible idea. This number may seem impressive at first. Without further digging though we do not know anything yet about the size as well as the type of people in the questioned group. Who specifically is not on the committee, as well as data about the scale of the agreement can be crucial in determining if a statistic is anywhere near as meaningful as it might appear at first sight. A good general rule of thumb when defending against statistics is that you will want to gather as much data about your data as possible.
Statistics also often seem engineered to trigger some sort of emotional response. It is best to remain vigilant of these kinds of Emotional Stats. On closer inspection statistics are rarely as fun as these triggers seem to suggest. If numbers seem too good to be true, there is always the distinct possibility that they indeed are too good to be true. Either way, some further digging into the matter stands well recommended.
Finally, there is the trap of the Cocky Correlations. Always keep in mind that correlation and causation are two fundamentally different creatures. Though data suggesting a link between national chocolate consumption and its amount of Nobel Prize winners can be entertaining and interesting, a healthy amount of scepticism still seems warranted. It might be a better idea to instead look for lack of association rather than causation, because these are much harder to find in nature.
Armed with these tools you should be able to navigate the treacherous landscape of statistics and help you to practice defence against them. As a final word of advice, it is worthwhile to realise that it is much better to know everything there is to know about one number, rather than to have a haphazard spotty knowledge of many dozens of them.
Be ware of:
The Polluted Poll, Emotional Statistics and Cocky Correlations
Who is Iulia?
Iulia Grosman is our key R&D specialist and researcher at AIM & Associés. Researcher and trainer, she provides training on Unleashing your memory and somatic education through Physical Wellbeing Pillars and Teleworking! You still have a body. As a trainer she works on all preverbal content, the movements within our body. As a speech scientist, she work on all verbal and musical content. Her passion is to bring both together.