Are there benefits to gaining a strong statistical background?

With an ever-growing politically correct and conscious society, having a strong statistical background has become an essential part of everyday life. We are bombarded with a ridiculous number of statistics wherever we look; “8 in 10 women would recommend it to their friends,” “over 93% of customers can make a saving on their car insurance up to £367” but what does this actually mean in relation to the consumer population? Without a statistical background, it is increasingly difficult to interrupt these results and make sense of them. Often with these surveys, only a handful of people are selected to represent the population.

Take for example Gillette’s current advertising campaign, claiming 3 in 4 men agree that there new razor gives a closer shave than their previous model.* Yet it can clearly be seen in the advert attached that only 236 men have been sampled. Yet the UK male population is over 28 million**. Obviously not all of the male population would apply to Gillette’s consumer market, yet even if we round down the male population to 20 million, using a knowledge of statistics we can derive that this sample represents 0.001% of the UK male population. Let’s be honest, a percentage that small can be considered virtually an anomaly. Yet general consumers can often misinterpret simple statistics like this and the product sells due to a misconception of figures.

I’m willing to admit, statistics such as p-values and hypothesis tests may not be used in everyday life, but they provide a vital service to companies and consumers alike. The stock market relies heavily of statistical trends and frequencies, and without this strong understanding of statistics, the countries economy would be in more turmoil than it already is. The government calculates figures on issues such as the emergency services, the prison system, the military, and unemployment, all by use of statistics. It provides an understanding to the entire world and its stability that could not be achieved without the understanding of statistics. It’s for these reasons, and far to many others to mention, that having a strong statistical background is essential to individuals and communities alike.

 

*http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgYttWR9n3U&feature=related

**http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/questions/population.html

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6 thoughts on “Are there benefits to gaining a strong statistical background?

  1. You have some good examples in here, and I love that you have showed how it can be good to have a strong knowledge of statistics by using real world examples, rather than just using examples to do with psychology.
    I love the example about the study only representing 0.001% of the population, and how if you don’t think about advertisements like this statistically you can end up believing that something is fantastic, when really it’s not.
    I found a lot of studies like this in the media. 236 men in your sample was very small, look at some of the examples here! :
    http://lipstick-and-pearls.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-cosmetic-adverts-manipulate-sample.html

    It’s crazy to think that people don’t realise they’re being led.
    Anyway, great first blog. Look forward to reading again next week.

  2. I really like the reference to the stock market, statistics is an integral part of the goings on in Wall St and as we’ve seen from the news recently the stock market affects all aspects of our lives. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15178959) From oil prices to shares in companies all the way to European economies, the stock market controls how and where we shop. Understanding the workings of it is certainly a help in today’s world and a good statistical background will aid this understanding.

  3. I enjoyed this entry – using real life examples is a good way to make your blog more accessible to a wider audience,rather than sticking to psychology based (and mostly boring) studies. You’ve presented the information in a clear, easy-to-take-in way, which again makes the blog accessible. One of the best blogs I’ve come across so far for statistics 🙂

  4. Your blog is awesome, far more interesting than mine! Found it very easy to take in and I think your major strong point was putting the marketing research into perspective with your 0.001% figure, very illuminating. I agree with one of the earlier comments that your observation regarding the wider applications of statistics in economics etc. and how it effects all of us is interesting and shows how statistics affect us on a local and global level.
    Here is your reward: http://mha7162.wikispaces.com/file/view/funny-cat-photo021.jpg/86981095/funny-cat-photo021.jpg

  5. This blog provides a great argument that is backed up. It flowed naturally and didn’t feel forced, I liked the use of the real statistic as being 0.0001% because that really did hammer home your argument. I was trying to look for flaws in it (as horrible as that makes me sound), and couldn’t see any at all! So great job!!

  6. I think that what you say is correct, though I would say that this blog argues the importance of a statistical background on a corporate level much better than it does for the everyday user. I think that for the average person, only a basic grasp of statistics is important. For example, a strong statistical background is not required in order to look at statistics used in advertising and see that they might not be all that they seem.

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