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Importance of Statistics

Module by: Adan Galvan, David Lane. E-mail the authors

Summary: Importance of statistics.

Note: You are viewing an old version of this document. The latest version is available here.

Statistics may be the single most important subject matter that you ever study. This is because throughout your entire life you have been and will continue to be inundated with research statistics and findings. These are just a few examples you might have encountered:

  • 4 out of 5 dentists recommend Dentyne
  • Almost 85% of lung cancers in men and 45% in women are tobacco-related.
  • Condoms are effective 94% of the time.
  • Native Americans are significantly more likely to be hit crossing the streets than are people of other ethnicities.
  • People tend to be more persuasive when they look others directly in the eye and speak loudly and quickly.
  • Women make 75 cents to every dollar a man makes when they work the same job.
  • A surprising new study shows that eating egg whites can increase one's lifespan.
  • People predict that it is very unlikely there will ever be another baseball player with a batting average over 400.
  • People predict that it is very unlikely there will ever be another baseball player with a batting average over 400.
  • There is an 80% chance that in a room full of 30 people that at least two people will share the same birthday.
  • 79.48% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
Although some of the above statements may not be true, you can see from this list of examples that statistics are ubiquitous: They are everywhere. They are in psychology, health, law, sports, in business, and in every other discipline.

Statistics are often included in a report to add credibility. This is easily observed watching any of the major news shows. Many of the statistics presented to you in your life have not been, are not, and will not be accurate. These snappy numbers are often easily accepted by and mislead people, especially people who are not consumers of research and consumers of statistics.

It is extremely important to understand statistics because statistics influence which findings you are going to believe and which findings are going to influence you to make changes in your life. And this on-line statistics textbook is important because it's going to make you a consumer of statistics.

The first step to being a consumer of statistics will be to question the statistics that you encounter. The British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli is well known for having said, "There are three kinds of lies -- lies, damned lies, and statistics." This quote reminds us why it is so important to understand statistics. From now on, don't just blindly accept numbers or findings but look carefully at the numbers, the sources, and most importantly, the procedures in which researchers use to obtain their findings. But just as important as detecting the deceptive use of statistics is the appreciation of the proper use of statistics. You should be able to recognize situations where the statistical evidence strongly supports conclusions. As you think more about statistics, you will become increasingly aware that statistics are all around you.

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