How statistical data is used, misused, and abused every day to fool us: “A very entertaining book about a very serious problem.” —Robert J. Shiller, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and author of Irrational Exuberance
Did you know that baseball players whose names begin with “D” are more likely to die young? That Asian Americans are most susceptible to heart attacks on the fourth day of the month? That drinking a full pot of coffee every morning adds years to your life, but one cup a day increases your pancreatic cancer risk? These “facts” have been argued with a straight face by credentialed researchers and backed up with reams of data and convincing statistics. As Nobel Prize–winning economist Ronald Coase cynically observed, “If you torture data long enough, it will confess.”
Lying with statistics is a time-honored con. In Standard Deviations, economics professor Gary Smith walks us through the various tricks and traps that people use to back up their own crackpot theories. Sometimes, the unscrupulous deliberately try to mislead us. Other times, the well-intentioned are blissfully unaware of the mischief they are committing. Today, data is so plentiful that researchers spend precious little time distinguishing between good, meaningful indicators and total rubbish. Not only do others use data to fool us, we fool ourselves.
Drawing on breakthrough research in behavioral economics and using clear examples, Standard Deviations demystifies the science behind statistics and makes it easy to spot the fraud all around us.
“An entertaining primer . . . packed with figures, tables, graphs and ludicrous examples from people who know better (academics, scientists) and those who don’t (political candidates, advertisers).” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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