Understanding Statistics

A short guide to understanding statistical claims.

Do statistics lie?

The modern world is brimming with statistical information—information relevant to our personal health and safety, the weather, or the robustness of the national or global economy, to name just a few examples. But don’t statistics lie?

Well, no—people lie, and sometimes they use statistical language to do it. Knowing when you’re being hoodwinked requires a degree of statistical literacy, but most people don’t learn how to interpret statistical claims unless they take a formal course that trains them in the mathematical techniques of statistical analysis.

This book won’t turn you into a statistician—that would require a much longer and more technical discussion—but it will give you the tools to understand statistical claims and avoid common pitfalls associated with translating statistical information from the language of mathematics to plain English.