What Are Examples of Misuse of Statistics?

NYC Media Lab/CC-BY-SA 2.0

According to an article from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, one way statistics are misused is when businesses infer false information from data gained during the course of their business, creating errors that cost time and money. Errors like this arise when an entity performs statistical research but fails to address all the components involved in the subject they are researching.

The misuse of statistics can be accidental or purposeful. Those with malicious intent sometimes misuse statistics in order to mislead their audience about a subject, a tactic that creates vast social issues and misunderstandings that last for years.

Misusing statistics is a broader problem than being a tool for the malicious. Scientists and other individuals that rely heavily on analysis and research often find themselves fooled by misused statistics. This creates errors in their experiments or other works, and leads to problems both minor and major.

Statistics are sometimes cherry picked for positive results, creating a false image of the final product. A survey that creates biased opinions about a given subject produces negative results. Other times, if negative results are treated as inconclusive, unless specific reasons are given then the statistics are skewed to seem positive.