# Statistics

JLM
#1
How reliable are they at telling the whole story?

Liberalman
#2
very

Ron in Regina
#3
I'll most likely be rebuffed by someone much more knowledgeable on the subject
of Statistics than I am, but Statistics can show pretty much what you want them to
show depending on the parameters set out to display the information.

The whole Climate thing I'm not going to touch, so lets use crime as an example.
Crime rates have been dropping for a long time....everywhere, it seems. Hmmm..

Antidotally, my Father or any of his Friends 30+ years ago never had their cars
broken into or stolen. I'm sure it happened, but not to anyone they knew. Now here
I am and I'm not sure if I know anyone personally that hasn't had a car broken into
or stolen in the last five years (& I'm leaving the never or ever out of this now).

Similar story with B&E's of peoples homes (& many where not locked much of the
time) back 30+ years ago. If you heard of it, it was a rare occurrence. Now I'm hard
pressed to think of anyone I know personally that hasn't had a B&E (or an attempt
was made on their homes) in the last 5-10 years....and so on & so forth. The crime
rate has been dropping for years though according to the statistics. What's going
on?

Tonington
#4
What's going on Ron is that the human brain is selective, and subjective. Statistics should be objective, and when Stats Canada says that crime rates are dropping, it's fairly certain that this is the case.

If you really want to know why there is a disconnect, think of it this way. Statistics deal with arithmetic means. They take a large sample, or census data, and make inferences about the population based on the mean. You and your friends and families are single realizations, and you will remember an event (car theft, break and enter) more than a non-event (no crime today, did you take notice?)

One part of doing statistics is having proper amounts of information to realistically be able to say something about the population you're interested in. Anecdotes aren't going to cut it.

I know you didn't want to touch the climate thing, but I will say one more thing. A proper amount of information in statistics means you're dealing with sample size. The more values you gather, the more they tend to approach something called the normal distribution (it's the bell shaped curve.) It essentially means that for values far away from the top of the bell, the mean, that the probability of a single measurement is very low. The probability of obtaining a data point close to the mean is very high. It turns out that as you get close to thirty values, many types of data will begin to appear normally distributed. Much statistical analysis relies on the normal distribution to make good reasoned inferences.

Anyways, climate is defined as thirty years, because at this value, the individual data points should appear to be close to normally distributed. This tendency is called the central limit theorem. So climatologists can make meaningful claims about changes in the system when this normality is apparent. This is a highly simplified explanation of course, there's far more to it once you go down the rabbet hole.

Ron in Regina
#5
Yeah....I wasn't going to touch on the climate thing, 'cuz there's a couple of threads
here topping the 2000 post mark on it, & they're still going on...so that's why I went
with the crime thing.

Yeah, the Human mind is a weird thing. I'll agree with you there.

Can statistics be manipulated based on a predetermined concept (I'm NOT talk'n
about the climate) by setting up the parameters governing the display of the stats to
reflect what someone wants them to reflect?

Not talking about the Climate thing or the Crime thing, look at the whacky conflicting
statistics thrown around regarding the whole Gun Control thing....What'cha figure?

Bar Sinister
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by Ron in Regina

I'll most likely be rebuffed by someone much more knowledgeable on the subject
of Statistics than I am, but Statistics can show pretty much what you want them to
show depending on the parameters set out to display the information.

The whole Climate thing I'm not going to touch, so lets use crime as an example.
Crime rates have been dropping for a long time....everywhere, it seems. Hmmm..

Antidotally, my Father or any of his Friends 30+ years ago never had their cars
broken into or stolen. I'm sure it happened, but not to anyone they knew. Now here
I am and I'm not sure if I know anyone personally that hasn't had a car broken into
or stolen in the last five years (& I'm leaving the never or ever out of this now).

Similar story with B&E's of peoples homes (& many where not locked much of the
time) back 30+ years ago. If you heard of it, it was a rare occurrence. Now I'm hard
pressed to think of anyone I know personally that hasn't had a B&E (or an attempt
was made on their homes) in the last 5-10 years....and so on & so forth. The crime
rate has been dropping for years though according to the statistics. What's going
on?

You can use me as someone you know. Had my car broken into in the early 80s and have not had my house broken into ever.

VanIsle
#7
We all know stats are as reliable as they need them to sound. I've said it over and over, stats are changed all the time to suit the needs of the person needing to show them. My husband was listening to a report on how crime has dropped across the country and he's one of those people who seems to think that if he speaks loud enough to the TV, someone will hear him so - he's yelling across the room - That's wrong, that's wrong. All they can do stats on are reported crime and many crimes go un-reported! I certainly heard him.

lone wolf
#8
Who's gathering and for what purpose are the numbers crunched?

Tonington
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by Ron in Regina

Can statistics be manipulated based on a predetermined concept (I'm NOT talk'n
about the climate) by setting up the parameters governing the display of the stats to
reflect what someone wants them to reflect?

Sure they can. Just like most anything else, if someone wants to abuse statistics they can. Statistics is just a tool. A very powerful tool if it's used correctly. People in the know will probably speak up if someone is using statistical methods improperly, or being fraudulent.

From my field, if we want to test a new vaccine, we don't use more fish in the trial than we need to. For one, it's an animal welfare issue, and second, using more fish would tie up resources that can be used in other trials (tank space, fish, heated or chilled water, etc.) We use statistics to determine how many fish we need for statistical significance.

ironsides
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by JLM

How reliable are they at telling the whole story?

Oh yeah, statistics are very reliable and accurate. Ok, what am I talking about?

YukonJack
#11
Mark Twain said: "There are lies. There are damned lies. And then, there are statistics".

Praxius
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by JLM

How reliable are they at telling the whole story?

Telling the whole story?

Zero reliability.

Statistics can show an accurate view towards one particular aspect of a much bigger picture, but almost always, statistics do not account for every needed factor, or bring about an assumption of something unfounded based on the information provided that with an additional factor applied, could bring about a totally different result.

It might show information leans towards one particular thing, but does it explain how it got there, why people decided on something, why something is the way it is in its entirety, the background or the reasons someone or something came to such a conclusion?

Never in its entirety.

Statistics are good for giving a limited perspective on a subject and perhaps point people in the right direction in regards to gaining further and more detailed information on said subject, but one should never rely on a statistic as being 100% true or that it tells a story/situation in its entirety.

Besides, 87.62% of all statistics are made up on the spot

JLM
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by Praxius

Telling the whole story?

Zero reliability.

Statistics can show an accurate view towards one particular aspect of a much bigger picture, but almost always, statistics do not account for every needed factor, or bring about an assumption of something unfounded based on the information provided that with an additional factor applied, could bring about a totally different result.

It might show information leans towards one particular thing, but does it explain how it got there, why people decided on something, why something is the way it is in its entirety, the background or the reasons someone or something came to such a conclusion?

Never in its entirety.

Statistics are good for giving a limited perspective on a subject and perhaps point people in the right direction in regards to gaining further and more detailed information on said subject, but one should never rely on a statistic as being 100% true or that it tells a story/situation in its entirety.

Besides, 87.62% of all statistics are made up on the spot

That is very close to my philosophy on the matter.

Tonington
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by Praxius

Statistics can show an accurate view towards one particular aspect of a much bigger picture, but almost always, statistics do not account for every needed factor

Ok...can you name anything which we humans have come up with to describe things that can account for every factor? Sometimes we're not interested in every factor.

Quote:

It might show information leans towards one particular thing, but does it explain how it got there, why people decided on something, why something is the way it is in its entirety, the background or the reasons someone or something came to such a conclusion?

No, statistics is just a tool. You don't build an entire house with a hammer, but it does come in handy for some parts of the build. Statistics is no different.

Quote:

Statistics are good for giving a limited perspective on a subject and perhaps point people in the right direction in regards to gaining further and more detailed information on said subject, but one should never rely on a statistic as being 100% true or that it tells a story/situation in its entirety.

Statistics uses probability. There are some results which are so solid, that the notion that they came about by chance are so improbable as to be negligible.

If you try to make more out of the stats then they can give, then you're using them improperly. Despite what you all might think of stats, the truth of the matter is that the progress we've made in science would have been a fraction of what we have discovered and learned if we did not use statistics when analyzing scientific results.

Tonington
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by YukonJack

Mark Twain said: "There are lies. There are damned lies. And then, there are statistics".

And do you know to what he was referring when he said that?

JLM
#16
One poster gave a good example of the fallibility of statistics, in that for crime statistics, not all the information is entered because not all of it is even reported.

Tonington
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by JLM

One poster gave a good example of the fallibility of statistics, in that for crime statistics, not all the information is entered because not all of it is even reported.

Statistics are only as good as the quality of the data. Caveat.

But now here's a pickle for you. Do you think that this non-reporting of crime is a new phenomenon, or something that has always been there? If so, showing a decreasing trend in crime rates is very likely to be a robust result. If not, then the statistics which show that this is a new phenomenon lead to investigations, which can find ways of addressing the problem.

AnnaG
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by Tonington

Statistics are only as good as the quality of the data. Caveat.

... and the description of what the stats are supposed to show.

Quote:

But now here's a pickle for you. Do you think that this non-reporting of crime is a new phenomenon, or something that has always been there? If so, showing a decreasing trend in crime rates is very likely to be a robust result. If not, then the statistics which show that this is a new phenomenon lead to investigations, which can find ways of addressing the problem.

Interesting thing in BC lately: someone did a study on the public's view of the RCMP and found about only 35% of the public had confidence in the RCMP here. I can imagine that this stat would cause a few people to just suffer minor crimes and keep clam about them rather than reporting them. That could cause a lowering of crime stats and reporting. Ironic, huh?

lone wolf
#19
Are five-day weather forecasts 100% accurate? There's statistics in action.

Around twenty-five years ago, I was dumped by Wawanesa Insurance because, according to their statistics, my luck was soon going to run out. It hasn't happened yet - and Wawanesa cheated themselves out of a quarter century's worth of free money.

Statistics? If we lived in a world without change, they'd have a better chance.

Tonington
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by AnnaG

... and the description of what the stats are supposed to show.

Interesting thing in BC lately: someone did a study on the public's view of the RCMP and found about only 35% of the public had confidence in the RCMP here. I can imagine that this stat would cause a few people to just suffer minor crimes and keep clam about them rather than reporting them. That could cause a lowering of crime stats and reporting. Ironic, huh?

What was the % before say... the tasering incidents? That's a crucial bit of information to have before anyone makes any kind of inference.

AnnaG
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by Tonington

What was the % before say... the tasering incidents? That's a crucial bit of information to have before anyone makes any kind of inference.

I can't remember but the confidence stats were definitely higher before the cops got tasers.

JLM
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by Tonington

Statistics are only as good as the quality of the data. Caveat.

But now here's a pickle for you. Do you think that this non-reporting of crime is a new phenomenon, or something that has always been there? If so, showing a decreasing trend in crime rates is very likely to be a robust result. If not, then the statistics which show that this is a new phenomenon lead to investigations, which can find ways of addressing the problem.

Exactly, contrary to being told that we should trust certain "information" because they are "statistics", but never qualifying what kind of statistics they are. For instance I've engaged in phone polling and have given answers to questions but nobody ever checked to see if I was lying about my answers and some of the answers may as well have been lies because the person conducting the poll could not speak English, so half the time I was only guessing at the gist of the question.

taxslave
#23
Lies
dam lies
statistics

relic
#24
Somebody else said "facts ? I don't need facts,I just make 'em up as I need 'em"

Tonington
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by taxslave

Lies
dam lies
statistics

And I'll ask you the same thing I asked Jack. Do you know in what context that quote is derived from?

YukonJack
#26
"And I'll ask you the same thing I asked Jack. Do you know in what context that quote is derived from?"

Tonnignton, you are asking two people who only quoted a very quotable quote by a very wise person.

There is one person who could give you the answer to your question, called: Samuel Clements.

Tonington
#27
The meaning of that quote is two-fold, and it's wise because of that. The people who most often use this quote use it predominantly in one form only, and thus miss the true wisdom in the quote.

It means that some people use statistics to tell lies, sure enough, and that's what most people use it (the quote) for. But it also refers to the fact that some people choose to write off statistics that they have cognitive issues with, or find inconvenient. So when someone uses this quote when they have no reason to discard the finding, they are actually the other side of the coin that this wise person was referring to.

Incidentally, there were others before him who had similar statements.
Last edited by Tonington; May 15th, 2010 at 10:22 AM..

Liberalman
#28
Statistics is historical information and probabilities is using statistics to predict the future.

JLM
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by YukonJack

"And I'll ask you the same thing I asked Jack. Do you know in what context that quote is derived from?"

Tonnignton, you are asking two people who only quoted a very quotable quote by a very wise person.

There is one person who could give you the answer to your question, called: Samuel Clements.

Yep, quoting Benjamin Disraeli.

YukonJack
#30
"A" quoting "B" quoting "C" and so on...

Does that invalidate the quote?

21