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From the Department of Made-Up Statistics

  Posted by RC Lewis , 16 April 2012 · 114 views

I admit it—I'm a data geek. (Shocking, right?) Give me some data, and I can't help but analyze it at least a little. I've even made graphs to analyze my writing.

I've often heard people claim you can make statistics say anything you want. That's not entirely true, but you can usually frame them in a way that leans in a certain direction, even if that direction is misleading. Some easy ways to do this are asking your question in a particular way, choosing a biased sample, and setting up a graph with an inappropriate axis. (All of these will get you labeled a bad statistician, though.)

Sometimes, it's easier just to skip all the technical steps and just make up results. So here are some claims that are entirely made up based only on my gut instinct. If anyone finds hard data on any of them, feel free to let me know.

  • 47% of cancer survivors will (attempt to) write a memoir on the topic.
  • 72% of drivers don't know how to merge properly.
  • 96% of literate Americans don't know how to use a semicolon.
  • 83% of teenagers declare something boring a minimum of twice every school day.
  • Chocolate makes everything better 99.9% of the time.
  • I remember 74% of the useless minutiae I come across, but only 51% of the information I actually need.
  • 2% of the people who protest that a given book should be banned have actually read the book.
Go ahead and make up some of your own statistics, or let me know if you think my percentages are off on any of the above. It's fun and makes you sound knowledgeable. ;)


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