Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stastistics: What Are They?

Perhaps like you, I see them everywhere. Statistics, I mean. 

Look on the labels of food packages and you find a per-centage listing which nutrients the food item will supply. Per-centages are statistics.  If you listen to the daily news you may hear of research that estimates how long you will probably live.  Probabilities are statistics.  Then there are those stasts--as we call them--that count us and put us in groups and alas, tell us how we measure up in comparison to others.

That is an awful lot of power for a set of numbers to have. 

Statistics influence our thinking.  Stats make important decisions for us.  They tell us when our weight is in check, what universities have the most successful graduates; and in which cities seniors can expect a comfortable retirement. Due to information overload that bombards most of us each day, it is inportant to find reliable resources that eliminate the useless, and can highlight the worthy; to help us make good decisions faster.

Stastistics are only as reliable as the source providing them.  Our job is to listen with care when quoted a percentage, a probability or a number that informs as to how we may best make a choice.

Ever get a telemarketing call announcing a 50 % off sale on kitchen remodeling? That's a huge discount for a home improvement that may normally cost upwards of $25,000.  Or how about that sticker on your last butcher purchase that assured that your roast had Zero Grams of Gluten?  Duh!

Both experiences merely suggest that we live at a time when useless stastistics are intentionally designed to hoodwink. If consumers stay aware of such designs, we have not only discovered what statistics can do; we have also empowered ourselves with the fine art of heeding their value. 



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