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Publisher's Summary

Did you know that baseball players whose names begin with the letter "D" are more likely to die young? Or that Asian Americans are most susceptible to heart attacks on the fourth day of the month? Or that drinking a full pot of coffee every morning will add years to your life, but one cup a day increases the risk of pancreatic cancer? All of these "facts" have been argued with a straight face by credentialed researchers and backed up with reams of data and convincing statistics.

As Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase once cynically observed, "If you torture data long enough, it will confess." Lying with statistics is a time-honored con. In Standard Deviations, economics professor Gary Smith walks us through the various tricks and traps that people use to back up their own crackpot theories. Sometimes, the unscrupulous deliberately try to mislead us. Other times, the well-intentioned are blissfully unaware of the mischief they are committing. Today, data is so plentiful that researchers spend precious little time distinguishing between good, meaningful indicators and total rubbish. Not only do others use data to fool us, we fool ourselves.

With the breakout success of Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise, the once humdrum subject of statistics has never been hotter. Drawing on breakthrough research in behavioral economics by luminaries like Daniel Kahneman and Dan Ariely and taking to task some of the conclusions of Freakonomics author Steven D. Levitt, Standard Deviations demystifies the science behind statistics and makes it easy to spot the fraud all around.

©2015 Gary Smith (P)2016 Gildan Media LLC

Critic Reviews

"A very entertaining book about a very serious problem. We deceive ourselves all the time with statistics, and it is time we wised up." (Robert J. Shiller, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics)

What listeners say about Standard Deviations

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Good read for all empiricist

I have a MSc in statistics, and I have seen countless examples of miss-used statistics in medicine and economics. This book offers a great overview of the most common pitfalls, including several examples of each.

7 people found this helpful

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Great examples of failing to understand methodology and lying with stats.

This book will help you become a skeptical consumer of stats and the conclusions drawn from them.

3 people found this helpful

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Great and informational audio book

Great book about the assumptions that we make and ties together many differnet fields with statistics. Also great narrator!

1 person found this helpful

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Now, I can't talk to people.....

- Audible Review-
This is a really good book
The narrator sounds like he wrote the book, complete with perfectly placed chuckles when referencing absurdities.

I've been interested in how data and statistics are used to influence society, and have read / listened to many books on the subject. This book covered some things I already knew (great as a refresher, and to set my mind up to learn the next lesson in the chapter), and taught me things I didn't know.

The problem now is: I want to talk with people about what I've learned, and most people don't want to know.
= chosen ignorance, it's all around us =

If what I have written resonates with you, you will enjoy this book.

~ Andrew

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Some great content, to many examples

I found this book very informative. It gave me a great insight into stats. The only problem was that it provided to many examples of the incorrect usage of stats. If it was halved one would still get the great content.

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Great eye opening book! Made me think on my future

Great eye opening book! Made me think on my future research. Thank you for your insights.

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Good Introduction on Misinterpretation of Data

The book provides an excellent introduction on the misinterpretation/misuse of data and statistics. For example, it is often cited that college graduates earn more money than high school graduates. But the fallacy of that thinking is that college graduates are self-selected; they choose to attend college and so the difference isn't just having a college degree (which result in a higher compensation). After all, billionaires like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg became rich despite not having a college degree (quite big exceptions to that statement). The book included some cautionary tales to illustrate a point but wasn't related to data. For example, the book described how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of the Sherlock Holmes stories) believed in paranormal activity despite his friends' explanation on how the scams worked. Eventually, that transitioned to studies into paranormal activity and how researchers cherry picked the data that supported the theory and "explained away" the data that didn't support it.

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Good but stumbles on macro economics

Very good read and certainly recommendable. Just ignore the "USA can print money to pay off its debt" nonsense in the Reinhart & Rogoff section.

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Not a beach read. But worth it

This book highlights all the ways people misuse statistics, and debunks a lot of common myths and pop medical reports. Definitely not for the faint of heart (or faint of mind). But if you can swim through the math it will change the way you read headlines

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Authors personal Bias gets in the way

The author literally will explain how something is incorrect or should be doubted. Because it only had correlation and not causation. But he feels he can dispute it by claiming there are other correlations...

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • RR
  • 05-27-20

Really interesting

A great listen if you're into statistics. If you're British, there are many facepalm pronunciations - Southwark (south-walk) and Chiswick (Chiz-wick) that just make it that little bit challenging not to want to scratch inside your brain, but thankfully they don't fill too many chapters.

1 person found this helpful

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  • D V.
  • 03-27-21

Bitchy and brilliant

Wow, I’m sure the author annoyed a few people with the critique in this book.

I really enjoyed this book, far more than I expected to enjoy a book about statistics.

Lots of examples to illustrate each point - some descriptions seemed longer than they needed to be, but made for a great ‘mini story’.
The narration was done very well to match the writing style.

There is an excellent summary chapter at the end to remind and reinforce all points.

Recommended for anyone working in data collection, analysis, visualisation (although this section is short), or relying on others data to guide big decisions.

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  • lindsay
  • 07-26-18

How could I?

This program is not bad pig not bad! But if you know what is good for you, you will read this book while eating bacon.