Chapter 3

Taking Control: So Many Numbers, So Little Time

In This Chapter

  • Examining the extent of statistics abuse
  • Feeling the impact of statistics gone wrong

The sheer amount of statistics in daily life can leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused. This chapter gives you a tool to help you deal with statistics: skepticism! Not radical skepticism like “I can't believe anything anymore,” but healthy skepticism like “Hmm, I wonder where that number came from?” and “I need to find out more information before I believe these results.” To develop healthy skepticism, you need to understand how the chain of statistical information works.

Statistics end up on your TV and in your newspaper as a result of a process. First, the researchers who study an issue generate results; this group is composed of pollsters, doctors, marketing researchers, government researchers, and other scientists. They are considered the original sources of the statistical information.

After they get their results, these researchers naturally want to tell people about it, so they typically either put out a press release or publish a journal article. Enter the journalists or reporters, who are considered the media sources of the information. Journalists hunt for interesting press releases and sort through journals, basically searching for the next headline. When reporters complete their stories, statistics are immediately sent out to the public through all forms of media. Now the information is ready to be taken ...

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