Monday, November 30, 2015

How to lie, no, display data in context

These are figures from the classic book "How to Lie with Statistics" by Darrell Huff. They illustrate an admonition against a dramatic scaling of a line graph (and also a bar graph) by not including zero on the vertical axis. This omission has long been a staple of those who want to mislead but, as the video from Vox below explains, often for their graphs, or charts as they call them, it is not always wrong to omit zero. Seeing the data in context is what's important. I especially like the illustration of plotting body temperature on the Kelvin scale. We should keep in mind the phrase attributed to the late Harvard statistician Frederick Mosteller, "While it is easy to lie with statistics, it is even easier to lie without them."

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