Statistical Science

Lies, Calculations and Constructions: Beyond How to Lie with Statistics

Joel Best

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Darrell Huff’s How to Lie with Statistics remains the best-known, nontechnical call for critical thinking about statistics. However, drawing a distinction between statistics and lying ignores the process by which statistics are socially constructed. For instance, bad statistics often are disseminated by sincere, albeit innumerate advocates (e.g., inflated estimates for the number of anorexia deaths) or through research findings selectively highlighted to attract media coverage (e.g., a recent study on the extent of bullying). Further, the spread of computers has made the production and dissemination of dubious statistics easier. While critics may agree on the desirability of increasing statistical literacy, it is unclear who might accept this responsibility.

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Statist. Sci. Volume 20, Number 3 (2005), 210-214.

First available in Project Euclid: 24 August 2005

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Darrell Huff social construction statistical literacy


Best, Joel. Lies, Calculations and Constructions: Beyond How to Lie with Statistics . Statist. Sci. 20 (2005), no. 3, 210--214. doi:10.1214/088342305000000232.

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