How to Use (And Misuse) Statistics

How to Use (And Misuse) Statistics

How to Use (And Misuse) Statistics

How to Use (And Misuse) Statistics

Excerpt

When I was an undergraduate psychology major at Carleton College, longer ago than most of you are old, I took the path of least resistance through the curriculum. As there always will be, there were loopholes in the requirements and I managed to locate most of them. This meant that I graduated almost untouched by hard science, mathematics, and statistics.

Later I was to suffer for my sloth. As a graduate student, they made me take remedial courses to repair my deficiencies. And that experience dramatically changed my outlook on quantitative materials. Taking those courses, particularly statistics, working with the subject matter, and eventually teaching a course in advanced statistics on my first job at Brown University showed me the importance of what I had rejected as an undergraduate. My opinion now is that a course in statistics can be the most liberalizing course a student can find in the curriculum and perhaps should be required of everyone. The world we live in is a world of uncertainty. An acquaintance with the way a statistician thinks is as useful as anything I know in the struggle that we all must carry on in order to cope with what we cannot predict.

This last statement may provide a hint that I will not be much concerned with calculations in this book What I want you to come away with is an appreciation of a style of thought and a respectable level of statistical literacy. I see no necessity, with these as my objectives, to dwell on formulas and computations. For those of you who find security in arithmetic, a final section of the book presents some of the technical tools. But what I want you to take away from your reading does not require mastery of that section.

I have tried very hard to keep the materials in this book lively and interesting, but I hope that I have not been too successful. By that I mean that it would be unfortunate if my routine flipness and irreverence and my occasional brushes with obscenity were to distract you and make you miss the serious points I have to offer. For I am really very serious about these materials. Understood, they will enrich your lives just as they have mine. So please: Read for understanding. If sometimes understanding is also fun, so much the better.

GREGORY A. KIMBLE

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