For UnHerd, Tom Chivers, talks about David Spiegelhalter’s new book and why every statistical headline deserves a grain of salt. One way to make sure things check out:

As a non-mathematician, I have a few shortcuts for working out whether a statistic is worth believing, which seem to have done all right for me so far. One, which Spiegelhalter stresses, is that often the best statistical analysis you can do is simply visualising the data. There was a bit of a recent kerfuffle about suicides among girls and young women going up 83% since 2012; but simply looking at the ONS chart showed that the numbers were small, the data was noisy, and the only way you got the 83% figure was by choosing the lowest year on record. (It’s an old trick.)

See also: common statistical fallacies.

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Nathan Yau

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