Here is a perfect set of statistics, that when read, appear just as they did when they were first recorded.
So why is it misleading?
Did the statisticians lie?
Well, no…but in this case, because I chose such a simple scenario that everyone from all walks of life can comprehend and relate to (everyone needs water), if you were to come across the three facts listed below, you would understand that:
- #1 cause of drowning
- Everyone who drinks water dies
- 100% of murderers are exposed to water in the hours leading up to the murder. Do You Still Feel Safe Drinking Water?
A – Water is part of your everyday life, drowning has always been a risk.
B – Everyone who drinks anything dies, who said it was from water?
C – Since non-murderers drink water as well, the cause of murder (or becoming a murderer) cannot be from water alone.
If you like to look at things on a deeper level your first thought might be “what was the author trying to establish, or sew in the minds of their readers?” Since you’re not studying stats they have no reason to appear before you, however this stat (as most you will see) is clearly being thrown at you in the form of an ad, headline, or social media post. Whether it’s from a Government funded News Corp you follow, an independent journalist, or your nutjob friend from high-school who is way too into conspiracy theories. These people want you to read their work, and so, will put the most misleading possible headlines before a blog that talks nothing or very little about what the headline was even about. More commonly known as clickbait. Most readers, customers, and consumers hate it, but…
It works. (Otherwise the top-dogs wouldn’t be doing it.)
Especially if your website does pay-per-click advertising, in which case most businesses could care less about the posts they are promoting, as long as they are getting clicks.
Choose between two hospitals
– Imagine your elderly relative or close family member needs to go to the hospital for an emergency surgery. You have to choose between two different facilities (Hospital A or Hospital B). According to the latest data, of the last 1000 patients going through surgery at Hospital A, 900 survived whereas only 800 survived out of 1000 at Hospital B.
Most peoples first assumption would be to choose Hospital A over Hospital B, right? Wrong…
For example, we have to assume that not all patients arrived at the hospital with the same level of health. Therein we can start dividing our results into patients that arrived in good health and ones that arrived in poor health. Immediately we start to see a difference in results. The further we look into the stat, the more variables seem to have been be left out! Differentiating and delving as deep as we need dive in the pool of data until we’re finally data-stricken with a clean conclusive study, and absolved of our confirmative biases.
In the case of Hospital A, for 100 patients that arrived in poor health 30 survived. (30%) On the other hand, Hospital B had 400 patients arriving in poor health and from that total, 210 survived. Thus, we can conclude that Hospital B, with a survival rate of 52.5%, is the best choice for patients that arrive in poor health.
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What doesn’t seem to strike anyone but the ones conducting their own studies and people behind the media who themselves strike with this exact tactic, is the fact that “Most People” are whom our country is run by here in the democratic west. And if: “We need not make democracy safe for society, but society safe for democracy” –MLA. Then we should start by teaching everyday media users, media literacy surrounding how to interpret the information they’re hit with. And how marketers can be taking them for a ride to God-knows-where.
Ok, that’s if the patient is in poor health…but what about if the patient is in good health?
Curiously, Hospital B continues to be the best choice with a survival rate of 98%! So, now comes the real question: how can Hospital A have an overall better survival rate if Hospital B has better survival rate for patients in each of the two groups!? Congratulations, you’ve now understood why it’s a Paradox! The same set of data appears to show opposite trends depending on how it is grouped. This occurs when data hides a conditional variable, which is a factor that significantly influences the results. (And there are plenty of them) Here the conditioned variable is patient’s health when arriving at the hospital.
Moreover, it is often argued that mathematics have no place in court because of their sheer ability to manipulate the Jury with little or no context. Public speakers, politicians, and other people of influence, understand how to exaggerate, or misleadingly state their views, findings, and statements for maximum cause and affect.
This is why information is more dangerous than water… even poison… and can be used by one to become better or worse.
But are you going to stop learning? Because of the toxicity levels of certain information? Or are you going to find better and more meaningful sources for such information?
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