How to avoid being influenced by manipulated statistics?

Data are only a pile of numbers, texts, Boolean values (true/false), or null value (doesn’t exist). They are meaningless if no one is trying use them to create a story. At the same time, it is very easy to manipulate statistic result now days from data even under the correct calculation. In fact, people are manipulating data to achieve their marketing goal or even political agenda. Also, with the easy access of internet, data are easier to gather, charts and graphs are easier to make, and so do the methods of manipulating them.

Manipulated statistics reports aren’t wrong mathematically, they are usually calculated by precise statistic software. Some of these misleading charts are simple visual trick while some aren’t representative to they claim to represent. At the same time, these overwhelming amounts of misleading statistics are used to influence our decision making behaviors daily.

A TED Talk about misleading statistics that appear in the media

Combining graphs with different representation of value, statistical report created with biased sample size or unclear questionnaires are misleading statistics can be seen in news and media. These can be checked by looking at the data source and check if the source is reliable. At the same time, the media is continuously publishing these contents because they are top revenue generators. Clickbait articles always work. Who would click on articles with boring titles anyway? More people click on them equals more ads revenue, and people always wanted to look at big, shocking news. In addition, most of us have an intuition to consider correlation and causation statistics to be true. However, in some cases they may have nothing to do with each other.

Nevertheless, some statistics can have several answers. For example, the unemployment rate, there are total six correct answers to the value of unemployment. They are U1, U2,…. U6. Each representing of including specific categories of people or not. Politicians can choose one of these six numbers to satisfy their political propaganda.

In conclusion, misleading reports are easier to make and they appear more often to us, we should prepare to identify the validity of these report before believing them.


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