How to Lie with Statistics
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How to Lie with Statistics

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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  2,243 ratings  ·  293 reviews
Darrell Huff runs the gamut of every popularly used type of statistic, probes such things as the sample study, the tabulation method, the interview technique, or the way the results are derived from the figures, and points up the countless number of dodges which are used to full rather than to inform.
Paperback, 144 pages
Published September 1st 1982 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1954)
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Riku Sayuj

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Pirates of the Powerpoint

Darrell Huff uses a simple, but effective literary device to impress his readers about how much statistics affect their daily lives and their understanding of the world.

He does this by pretending that the book is a sort of primer in ways to use statistics to deceive, like a manual for swindlers, or better, for pirates. He then pretends to justify the crookedness of the book in the manner of the retired burglar whose published remini...more
Eric Phetteplace
Sep 10, 2011 Eric Phetteplace rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who don't want to be ignoramuses their whole lives
Shelves: lis-web
This is one of those rare books I would recommend to almost anyone. It's clear, concise, funny, not too complex, and above all important for anyone who wants to understand politics, economics, science, or life in general. Statistical analysis is so vital to determining how things actually stand and where we should be moving that people lacking awareness of basic logical/statistical fallacies are doomed to live within delusions. Being informed necessitates understanding and being skeptical of sta...more
Seth
Yes, it has all the stuff you hear about: how people use stats to subtly (and not-so-subtly) misdirect the reader/listener, how to systematically recognize (or create) misinterpretations, and a strong implicit call to action for clearer information in public discourse.

But in the billion years since this classic came of age, we've all learned that other ways, some of them better presented. When it was written, many people believed the information they received in the papers, in magazines, and on...more
Russell
I'm just going to quote the Amazon.com review:

"There is terror in numbers," writes Darrell Huff in How to Lie with Statistics. And nowhere does this terror translate to blind acceptance of authority more than in the slippery world of averages, correlations, graphs, and trends. Huff sought to break through "the daze that follows the collision of statistics with the human mind" with this slim volume, first published in 1954. The book remains relevant as a wake-up call for people unaccustomed to ex...more
Sebah
أحب الرياضيات و تستهويني الأرقام ، لكن علم الإحصاء كان حاجزا لم أكن أستطيع تجاوزه ، و بالأخص ثلاثة مفاهيم (عقدتني) :
mean, mode, & medium
كنت دائما أقرأها في الدراسات التي أطلع عليها دون أن أفهمها أبدا ، و أشتهي لو أني أستطيع توظيفها في أبحاثي التي تعتمد على الأرقام .

فكّ هذا الكتاب عقدتي ! ، أخيرا فهمت ما تعنيه هذه المفاهيم من خلال تخطيط رسمي مبسط (<- بديل منزلي للسكانر العطلانة) ، لم أجده في أي من كتب الإحصاء !. متعة أني أخيرا عرفت معنى هذه المصطلحات تفوق الكثير من المتع !. سعيدة جدا بهذ...more
Fiver

It seems a little shallow to rate this semi-pamphlet at four stars, as one of the must-read books, but that's exactly what I'm going to do.

This book earns four stars from me simply from its concisiveness and practicality. You can churn through this beauty in one sitting. It is entertaining, has excellent examples, introduces concepts in a wry, witty tone, and after ten years of courses, articles, books, and opinions, I have yet to learn a single thing about misleading statistics that wasn't taug...more
Nate Capone
I still wonder why Trigonometry and Calculus are offered in high school, but Statistics is not. It's such a broad subject that is used in so many fields-even forgetting all of the numbers we read in magazines. I digress.

This book specifically focuses on the facts and figures that we see everyday, pretty much everywhere. I thought it was well written and extremely thorough, going from problems that happen during study collection, to the cherry picking and presentation of data itself. I had to gr...more
John Hibbs
This book was published in 1954 and some of the examples are dated but the principles it puts forth are still valid today--if not more so than ever--and the material is delivered in clear, concise, and even entertaining anecdotes and illustrations. It is also an easy read that can be easily finished in one day of concentrated effort.

How often do you hear statistics bandied about in the media or used to try to prove some special-interest point? "Of course" the people quoting the figures must be r...more
Mary
Recommended by both Jamie S. Z. and my Statistical Foundations professor. Really engaging and common-spoken, eager to make us adroit critical thinkers of statistical information. The main problem, of course, is its age, which enthusiastically describes plush neighborhoods with an average income of $15,000 and the enormous profits of $42 a week. Still, it has the fervor to educate us because, as H.G. Wells once prophesied, "Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizensh...more
Dennis Cassidy
ever have the feeling that all 97.2% of statistics are bullshit? that's probably a low estimate. everyone should read this book. bogus statistics (58% of americans believe x) are everywhere. huff systematically destroyed this crap 50 years ago. unfortunately, some of the examples are dated, but you'll get the idea.
Dorothea
This book is a brief and charming reminder of how percentages, graphs and charts, and survey results may be used to create an impression not actually indicated by the numbers.

I say "reminder" because I've taken intro-level statistics and encountered these ideas before, but I think that How to Lie with Statistics should be comprehensible to anyone who knows practical arithmetic.

Apart from its subject matter, it's interesting to read this book published in 1954 58 years later to see what sorts of...more
Grace
OK, first off, it isn't normal that I give a math book 5 stars. I often find them dull, boring, and difficult to read. However, How to lie with statistics was as funny as it was informative. Duff does a good job of not only explaining what tricks people use on statistics to twist the facts, but he gives poignant examples that were just as relevant when he wrote this book as they are today. What I found most interesting is how he dissected the "logic" that uses these techniques to explain how the...more
Maurizio Codogno
Sappiamo tutti, o almeno annuiamo quando ce lo dicono, che alle statistiche si può fare dire quello che si vuole. Spesso questo capita perché siamo noi che vogliamo essere ciechi davanti ai dati che ci vengono propinati: forse per paura dei numeri, o più banalmente perché non vogliamo fare fatica a leggere davvero quello che c'è scritto. Beh, adesso avete molte scuse in meno. Dopo solo cinquantatré anni dall'uscita dell'edizione originale, è stato finalmente tradotto il testo fondamentale di Dar...more
Pat
This probably offers me the perfectly inappropriate opportunity to launch into a polemic against mathematics education in the US. I will refrain. However, I must say that if I were designing a statistics course then I would find Huff's book as a perfectly good cornerstone. If I were drafting a list of books to serve as pre-college summer reading requirements, How to Lie with Statistics would be towards the front. In the event that I regrettably had to attend a baby shower, I would be forgoing th...more
Karen Mardahl
Marvelous little book. It's from 1954 and some things are obviously dated. That makes some things, like mentions of prices, very funny. However, his points are timeless.
This is easily read and easy to understand. I have never had statistics in school and I am trying to make up for that. This is perfect. There is a lot of sensible wisdom that any responsible citizen can benefit from. You use this when reading the newspaper, advertisements, news from the government, etc., etc. A friend lent me thi...more
Filip Ligmajer
page 5 | location 67-70 | Added on Saturday, 15 March 2014 22:47:01

The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify. Statistical methods and statistical terms are necessary in reporting the mass data of social and economic trends, business conditions, “opinion” polls, the census. But without writers who use the words with honesty and understanding and readers who know what they mean, the result can only be...more
Alex Helander
This book is rather quite simple and a quick read. The author explores how organizations lie with and misuse statistics. He points out flaws in common statistics given by advertisements and other groups, and gives readers tips on how to identify these bad stats. He also does it in a simple way so anybody can understand and it is also accompanied by very nice illustrations ( I know that sounds childish but it adds to the simplicity and gives the book a lighthearted, friendly tone. Also, at some p...more
Jameel Hijazeen
May 16, 2014 Jameel Hijazeen rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Doctors
Recommended to Jameel by: No one
You could have read or heard Benjamin Disraeli's quote: “There are three types of lies -- lies, damn lies, and statistics.” (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/4173...). I came across it many times before reading this book. I only thought that people could lie with statistics because it is very complex. But how? Only after reading this book I understood the meaning of this statement fully. I knew how easy can people lie with statistics. Moreover, I came to understand how to question statistics and...more
Carl Klutzke
Recommended by various sources, and rightfully so. It's not a long read, it's relatively entertaining, and it covers the fundamental ways in which statistics are misrepresented: manipulation of sample size, manipulation of averaging method (mean / median / mode), implied authority, etc. It would be especially good for people who haven't had a statistics class. However, it desperately needs an updated edition. The examples are based upon social and economic values of 1954 (back when US $25K a yea...more
Emily
The humor and, in particular, the drawings, are really outdated, to put it charitably: racist and sexist (natives with bones through their noses, e.g.). Otherwise, this is a really lucid read, the kind of knowledge that should be required reading for, I don't know, any adult, especially a registered voter. I was a little puzzled by his description of different kinds of averages: I only know an average as the arithmetic mean, although apparently it's used interchangeably with median too? Anyway,...more
Alexandre
This is a small classic – very funny – introduction to statistics (illustrated).
John Esterly
I hate to be so negative about a book, but this one is almost unreadable. I diligently read the first two chapters, then paged through the rest. It was written in the 1950s, so much of the data examples are pretty archaic - the Yale Class of '24 and the Roosevelt Election of '36 for example. I tried to give the benefit of the doubt and read for substance, but found that much of the information Huff is passing on is covered in the most basic of statistics classes. Perhaps my background kept this...more
Dave
This short, quick read does offer a nice overview of some of the main tricks/pitfalls with statistics, mainly in the media. Most of the statistical tips are fairly basic--as you would expect, he spends a lot of time talking about the troubles with averages and sample sizes--and thus probably not very new to those who closely follow current events (or are baseball nerds). The last chapter does have a handy checklist of things to look out for when reading things presenting figures and stats. One f...more
Chris Lindquist
As "big data" becomes an increasingly loud clarion call and statistics get tossed around social media at a dizzying pace, Mr Huff's book is a pleasant, humorous and insightful reminder that having numbers can be very different than having numbers that really mean what they seem to say.

The examples are dated, of course, and some watch outs, such as survivorship bias, are missing, but I still highly recommend this book as a great primer for those without much background in statistics and a quick...more
Stephan Renkens
While Excel and Powerpoint made it only worse, people have always been easily cheated by data and graphs. This is well illustrated by Huff's booklet, that got not outdated at all since it was written more than sixty years ago.

Also then people were apparently struggling with making unbiased samples or getting lost in and (and cheated by) mixing up mean, median and mode. While a figure indeed can say more than a thousand words, Daniël Huff shows the good old and still valid techniques to blur the...more
Vish Wam
Pros:
A revelation that could bring the common man out of mass media's misguiding bluffs. Illustrations and case reports are hilarious. A must read for every man, the scientist and the layman alike. An eye opener (especially for people reviewing articles from medical journals). Concise and precise.

Cons:
Difficult to comprehend in some places. Could have used simpler sentences instead of complicated, hard to follow technical sentences. Some of the cases were little too obvious. One might have to r...more
Shaela Woody
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." - Disraeli

Despite being published six decades ago and drawing examples from dated topics, (the health risks/benefits of cigarettes seems to have been the hip controversy of the day), this concise primer on how to deceive with numbers remains more relevant than ever in the internet age of copy-and-paste Google scholars.

Everyone would benefit from studying the concepts discussed, such as the unqualified “average” (is the statisti...more
Blair
Aug 12, 2013 Blair rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book should be essential reading for everyone.

I learned fairly early on in my studies that math can be one of the most creative subjects. Like all forms of creativity, it can be used for many things: an illustration of truth, a work of beauty, a bold statement... or a cover up for something trashy which makes it momentarily presentable. This book deals with that last kind of math, specifically how statistics can be used (intentionally or not) to mislead an audience to a false conclusion.

Giv...more
Melanie
Great! A little outdated (written in 1954, so take the monetary figures with a grain of salt or multiply them by 10) but a great introduction to statistics and how statistics can be used or misused. Great for young skeptics. The reading level isn't very high either; probably most middle-schoolers could handle it (or whatever age kids start doing pre-algebra). One thing though is that he does mention Dr Alfred Kinsey in passing a couple of times (in one instance very subtly insinuating that the r...more
Tombom P
Good, reasonably entertaining introduction to the basic ideas behind statistics as used in the "popular" sphere. No serious complaints, but it doesn't particularly stand out as insightful, mostly because of a few problems:

- Old, so it uses outdated terms and examples that can be confusing and sometimes insulting - I didn't understand a couple of examples at all
- The use of maths is confusing - it says everything in word form instead of equations, which doesn't particularly help those with troubl...more
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