Berkeley, CA 2008 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. New book. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 132 p. Contains: Illustrations, black & white, Tables, black & ...white. Audience: General/trade.Read moreShow Less
Alarming statistics bombard our daily lives, appearing in the news, on the Web, seemingly everywhere. But all too often, even the most respected publications present numbers that are miscalculated, misinterpreted, hyped, or simply misleading. Following on the heels of his highly acclaimed Damned Lies and Statistics and More Damned Lies and Statistics, Joel Best now offers this practical field guide to help everyone identify questionable statistics. Entertaining, informative, and concise, Stat-Spotting is essential reading for people.
Joel Best is Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. Among his many books are Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads, More Damned Lies and Statistics: How Numbers Confuse Public Issues, and Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists, all from UC Press.
In my job I constantly deal with people who generate reliability and probabilty numbers. From this I have learned how such numbers can be misused and abused, sometimes purposely, sometimes unwittingly. (One group of people will tell you that in Russian roulette you have a 1 in 6 chance of dying. Another group will tell you that you are have an 83% chance of being safe. Do you want to play, or not?) I have also seen how the assumption of a groundrule or estimation of a standard can greatly afffect the outcome. This is the basis of "Stat-Spotting". Let me hasten to add that I don't intend to denounce every number nor every person who generates such numbers. There are many who produce very realistic, interesting and useful statistics. And there are people who don't understand the math behind such numbers, and who use a perfectly good stat in the most maligned way. These are the concepts which Joel Best explains well in his practical book. Do not be alarmed that this is a highly mathematical book. Best does not dig into that part of the issue. Rather, he points out the ways in which stats can be made to tell a very different story than they were intended, and instructs readers in ways to discern such abuse for themselves. "Stat-Spotting" is basic for those acqauinted with statistical math and interpretation, but is quite enlightening for those with less instruction.
The best lesson from "Stat-Spotting" is on benchmarks and the use of such in determining if a statistic is reasonable or not. Having a few numbers readily available in one's head can serve well when someone tosses out, for example, a number for homicides in the US which exceeds the actual recorded number of homicides in the US. And Best also provides locations to find such hard numbers for oneself.
This book is a good reference for those who devour a good deal of news and wonder at the numbers which are tossed around so free and easy in the information age.
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