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How to Lie with Statistics

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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  11,625 ratings  ·  1,217 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 fool rather than to inform.
Paperback, 142 pages
Published September 1st 1982 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1954)
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Beryl Yes! In fact President Trump requires so much fact-checking and it is often the case that there are no facts to support his claims--often backed with …moreYes! In fact President Trump requires so much fact-checking and it is often the case that there are no facts to support his claims--often backed with numbers that can't be proven.(less)

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Riku Sayuj
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: r-r-rs, economics

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 rem
...more
Eric Phetteplace
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
ALLEN
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This little book was first published in the Fifties and has remained in print even as the cover cost and the examples of merchandise in the book have been updated for inflation. Why? Because the principles it teaches are just as important now as then. See how government, big business, pressure groups and labor all manipulate us with number-mangling to indicate changes in prices, wages or unemployment are better or worse than they really are, or how the government's policy is the right one even t ...more
Fiver
Nov 10, 2009 rated it really liked it

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
Seth
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Dee Arr
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
Noting that this book was published in 1954, one may instantly discount the information as outdated. However, there are recent events that can be related to some of the examples author Darrell Huff provides, and helps to increase the book's value.

For those who have fleetingly or never studied statistics, this is a good place to start. It is a quick and easily understandable read, written in plain English and with plenty of examples to prove the author's points. Personally, I have studied statist
...more
elias
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A really fast read. And a fascinating one. Although I didn't pay attention to the release date before I began. So now I want to read another book discussing the same subject :3

These days, every claim is accompanied by stats to validate them. And when contradicting claims both have supporting studies behind them, you really have to stop and ask yourself what the fuck is going on. This is where this book comes to the rescue. Statisticians don't "lie" per se. But they do a lot of manipulation to b
...more
José
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Very nice book on the most common statistical illusions present when loose statistics are presented in the media. It - statistical fooleries - still is surprisingly common and many examples can be observed in plenty of political campaigns and news outlets. It doesn't require a very deep knowledge of maths or statistics, so it is ideal if you are just looking to get a useful intuition on how popular statistical reporting typically works and where it fails. ...more
Kevin
Oct 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
There’s a reason why this is the best-selling popular stats book…

--This book aims to make stats applicable for the public. Thus, it targets:
a) Those who get lost with statistics for fear of mathematics and/or ignorance of its application in social issues.
…and converts them to:
b) Those who bother with statistics not for its mathematics, but for its application in social issues.

--Going easy on the mathematics is not actually sacrificing too much. Consider: public deception requires the victim thi
...more
Farhana
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
In class 5 or 6, when we first started doing maths of finding average, mean or mode, I really had no idea what they meant or even why I was doing them. Just sum up the numbers, divide by their number and get the average or arrange them in increasing order, take the number in the middle - what they meant even. Maybe I was just following the instructions because the books said so or doing things this way will bring me marks in the exam. That's it. No more thoughts.

Later when we learnt regression
...more
Audrey
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I didn’t realize at first that this book was written in 1954. It’s still relevant today; math and people don’t change. It’s written in a fun, conversational style with lots of concrete examples that make the topics easy to understand. Even if you’ve already studied statistics, it’s a good refresher to see how they’re used in everyday media.
Kristy K
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bill-gates, reference
Written over 60 years ago, this is still a highly relevant book that exposes the many flaws in statistics and how easy it is to manipulate findings. A short book that everyone should read.
Steven
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
"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 semantic nonsense… This book is a sort of primer in ways to use s
...more
May 舞
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
It turns out that there are so many ways one could deliberately lie with statistics, whilst simultaneously giving an air of credibility to whatever crap they are purporting.

This book is both scary and highly entertaining. It's a quick but informative read based on real-life examples.
Here's one that was particularly illuminating (emphasis mine):

"Let us say that during a period in which race prejudice is growing you are employed to “prove” otherwise. It is not a difficult assignment. Set up a p
...more
Russell
Oct 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Nate
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
Rich Lundeen
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
I love the title.

The content feels outdated. I think people lie with statistics much better today than when this was published. Yay, we're improving!
...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
Annie
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A book for the non-specialists! “The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify”, writes Huff. The psychobabble and physics envy element of the specialist phenomenon reflects the statistical envy of the non-specialists. However, competence can rarely be duped without a dupe-able audience, so to speak. The examples provided are neat, though it is a purposive sample: fully grown adults being and propagatin ...more
John Hibbs
May 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 07, 2011 rated it liked it
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
11811 (Eleven)
Jan 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Sneaky bastards.
Daniel
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an OLD book (written in 1950s). There I've got everyone's complaint out of the way. Its still as relevant today as it was when it was written just replace magazine/Newspaper with Webpage/blog add a few zeros to the number examples and your good.

In this day in age you should probably know what this book is teaching and if you do than its a quick nice reminder if you don't you need to read this book. The fact that a large amount of people are in the don't category is a condemnation of the
...more
Robert
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
An easy and quick read about how to protect yourself against misleading statistics and visualizations!
Interesting if you regularly follow the use or make data visualizations yourself.
Mehdi Hassan
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
When Bill Gates recommends a book, one cannot help but check it out. This is one of the most interesting and practical books I have read in a while. The book asks questions of the numbers that are thrown in our face everyday. I felt it has added another layer to my critical thinking skills and set myself apart from those who panic at daily news. Books like these will not give shortcuts to climbing a corporate ladder or increase salaries overnight; what it enforces is something more subtle: peace ...more
Syed Fathi
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bought, statistics
Statistics are not safe from interpretation, statisticians interpretations may not be the same as what the public understands or defines certain things. The book aims to equip reader to navigate through these numbers and percentage, to analyze and have a second thought before arriving in any conclusion, in order not to fall into the trap of the manipulation. Huff noted that many statistical term has a loose meaning, this loose meaning can present a misrepresentation, whether unintentionally or i ...more
uosɯɐS
So...doing the library challenge, I needed 8 short books. And, if this is to be my year of data and statistics... well, this classic that I've heard of for years seems a good candidate.

It was definitely a worthwhile read. It did get me thinking about how statistics can be misused... but I do hope that some of the methods mentioned in this book are now out of date.

Some suggestions:
1 - Beware the word "average." It could mean mode, median, or true arithmetic mean. Even if it is the mean, a non-Bel
...more
Erin
Jan 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2012
This book was published in 1954, before Excel, and it hasn't been updated yet it's still being reissued. After reading this, I can only assume that B.E. (Before Excel) statistics were presented more often with illustrations rather than bar graphs and pie charts, which would just be weird now since it's so easy to prepare graphs in Excel. Or maybe the whole point of the book is that if you use illustrations you will be able to confuse your audience with more ease. Either way, I didn't really lear ...more
Ailith Twinning
Jun 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, 2019
60+ years later and it's still one of the best out there to prove the basic point. And yet, people are still falling for all the old tricks.

Amusing and informative read, plus it has fun relics of the 50s in spades, like mentioning that the cold isn't caused by a germ, but we don't know what it is (Rhinovirus was officially discovered 2 years after the publication of this).

Really tho, my favourite thing about this book is that people today are arguing that media was some ideal thing in say, the
...more
Patrick Peterson
Apr 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the Best books I have ever read. If you understand this book, and it ain't hard, and you apply it to the statistics you come across in your life, then you will NOT be bamboozzled. ...more
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