Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Do Statistics Lie?

On my wife's blog today, a lady writing about advertising stated that, "Statistics when used to sell anything can be misleading."  Really?  It is not the statistics that are misleading, it is the interpretation of the statistics that are.  Math doesn't lie, people do.  The argument needed to address what questions to ask about the statistics in order to ascertain their relevance, validity and reliability.  It is only then that they can be used as an effective tool.  The argument, in its present form, is too simplistic and thus leads to a misleading assertion.  All information can be useful in decision making if it is put into the right context.  The lesson of the day, statistics are a tool used as part of the decision-making process, not a abdication of responsibility for it.