“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 and author of Irrational Exuberance
“Most of the authoritative, sciencey-sounding claims we're fed by the media are polluted by distortions, biases, and plain old errors. In Standard Deviations, Gary Smith sets the record straight via hugely engaging case studies and anecdotes. It's the most fun you can have while learning how not to be led astray by the hordes of sloppy, self-serving—if often well-meaning—data mongers.” —David H. Freedman, author of Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—and How to Know When Not to Trust Them
“We all learn in school that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. Gary Smith's new book imparts true substance to this point by setting forth myriad examples of how and why statistics and data-crunching at large are susceptible to corruption. The great risk today is that the young will forget that deductive logic is vastly more powerful than inductive logic.”—Horace Wood Brock, President, Strategic Economic Decisions, Inc.
“Gary Smith is brilliant when it comes to writing lively and understandable statistical analysis, and Standard Deviations is his best work to date. It joins Darrell Huff's How to Lie With Statistics as a 'must read' classic in the field.” —Woody Studenmund, Laurence de Rycke Professor of Economics, Occidental College
“Statistical reasoning is the most used and abused form of rhetoric in the field of finance. Standard Deviations is an approachable and effective means to arm oneself against the onslaught statistical hyperbole in our modern age. Professor Smith has done us all a tremendous service.” —Bryan White, Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc.
“It's entertaining; it's gossipy; it's insightful; it's destined to be a classic. Based on a lifetime of experience unravelling the methodical blunders that remain all too frequent, this book communicates Gary Smith’s wisdom about how not to do a data analysis. Smith’s engaging rendering of countless painful mistakes will help readers avoid the pitfalls far better than merely mastering theorems.” —Edward E. Leamer, Chauncey J. Medberry Professor, UCLA
“Standard Deviations will teach you how not to be deceived by lies masquerading as statistics. Written in an entertaining style with contemporary examples, this book should appeal to everyone, whether interested in marriages or mortgages, the wealth of your family, or the health of the economy. This should be required reading for everyone living in this age of (too much?) information.” —Arthur Benjamin, Professor of Mathematics, Harvey Mudd College and author of Secrets of Mental Math
“Gary Smith's Standard Deviations is both a statement of principles for doing statistical inference correctly and a practical guide for interpreting the (supposedly) data-based inferences other people have drawn. The book is cleverly written and engaging to read, full of concrete examples that make clear not just what Smith is saying but why it matters. Readers will discover that lots of what they thought they'd learned is wrong, and they'll understand why.” —Benjamin M. Friedman, William Joseph Maier Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University
“Standard Deviations shows in compelling fashion why humans are so susceptible to the misuse of statistical evidence and why this matters. I know of no other book that explains important concepts such as selection bias in such an entertaining and memorable manner.” —Richard J. Murnane, Thompson Professor of Education and Society, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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-honoured 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 deductions and total rubbish. Not only do others use data to fool us, we fool ourselves.
Drawing on breakthrough research in behavioural economics by luminaries like Daniel Kahneman and Dan Ariely, and taking to task some of the conclusions of Freakonomics, Standard Deviations demystifies the science behind statistics and brings into stark relief the fraud that surrounds us all.