STA 210 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Read All About It (Song), Numeracy, Decimal Mark

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~ Statistics Lecture #3 ~
Literacy and Human Inference
o Read All About It: BN 1.1 and 1.4
o Focused on human inference from statistical summaries
o Basic numeracy is required to asses integrity of the summaries
o Focused on:
Decimal point errors
Deceptive charts
Competence with fractions and rates
Usefulness of common benchmarks
o Inductive Inference
o The process of reasoning from the known to the unknown
o Math is more about “deductive inference.”
o A politician looking at the poll results (sample) and deciding whether she has a change in the
fall election (all voters)
o Human Inference
o An off-hand phrase taken in here to mean “inferences we make from statistical constructs
like charts, graphs, numerical summaries.”
o Think of it as how you operationalize statistical descriptions.
o Really? A College Topic?
o From an article by Ryan McCready, August 10, 2017
“In this post-truth era, graphs, charts, and tables are being used to skew data or
ideas like never before.”
“Misleading graphs or charts are perfect for inserting an incorrect idea into a
narrative. And that idea can spread around the world in seconds before the truth
can even get its pants on.”
“All it takes is a single graph from a less than reputable source, blasted out to a list of
followers, to change a story worldwide.”
o 5 Ways Writers Use Misleading Graphs to Manipulate You
o Omitting the Baseline
In most cases, the baseline for a graph is 0.
But writers can skew how data is perceived by making the baseline a difference
This is known as a “truncated graph.
o Manipulating the Y-Axis
Expanding or compressing the scale on a graph can make changes in data seem
more or less significant than they actually are.
o Cherry Picking Data
Writers may only include certain data points on their graphs to reinforce their
This can create a false impression of the data.
o Using the Wrong Graph
The type of graph you use should depend on the type of data you want to visualize.
Using the wrong type of graph can skew the data.
Writers will sometimes use the wrong type of graph on purpose.
o Going Against Conventions
Over time, we have developed standards for how data is visualizes.
Flipping those conventions can make a graph confusing or misleading to readers.
o Advice from Journalist Craig Silverman
o First, journalists need to acquire the basic math skills needed to properly handle numbers
and figures.
o Second, they need to develop the habit of double-checking every number and figure.
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