MA-336 Steven Cheng
Due: Last day of class
Extra Credit #2
(+5 on lowest exam or lab replacement)
How to Lie, Cheat, Manipulate, and Mislead using Statistics:
For this assignment, I want you to read the attached powerpoint and text about how to lie,
cheat, manipulate, and mislead using Statistics. Your response paper should be about 2 – 3
pages. I also want you to address the following:
1. Biased Sampling
2. Area Bias
3. Self-section bias
4. Leading question bias
5. Social desirability bias
6. Sampling Bias
7. How can you manipulate data analysis? Give some examples
8. How can you manipulate graphical displays? Give some examples
9. How can we tell the difference between good and bad information?
(Also, how to do it right, and MOST IMPORTANTLY,
how to tell the difference!)
How does Statistics and Graphical Displays
(truthful or not) matter in a computer science
Data and information are so prevalent
in our lives today, that it is known
as the “Information Age”
Being literate today means not just being
able to read, but being able to understand the
massive amount of information thrown at us
every day – much of it on the computer.
Statistics is the science of making effective
use of numerical data.
It deals with all aspects of this, including the
interpretation of data
In order to analyze and
interpret data, we must
first collect it.
The data that is collected
is known as a sample.
The sample is collected
from a population.
We wanted to analyze
San Diego ocean
temperatures in CSE3.
Our population was the
ocean off the coast of
Our sample, was the
by Buoy100 over the
last 9 years.
If we were to claim that
our results were
California coastal waters
Southern California coastal
San Diego coastal waters
Or even La Jolla coastal
That would be called
And we could use it to lie,
cheat, manipulate, or
mislead the general
There are many different types of sampling
bias. Some examples include:
Leading Question Bias
Social Desirability Bias
If we were to claim that our findings were
applicable to the entire California coast, or
even just the San Diego coast, we would be
guilty of perpetrating an area bias.
The area of your sample needs to be
representative of the study population.
When reading news stories or scientific
articles, make sure you verify that there is no
area bias in the study.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has
written on the threats posed to polar
bears from global warming.
However, also according to them, about
20 distinct polar bear populations exist,
accounting for approximately 22,000
polar bears worldwide.
Only 2 of the groups are decreasing.
10 populations are stable.
2 populations are increasing.
The status of the remaining 6 populations is
If you only looked at the 2 groups that
are decreasing, it would be easy to say
that “Polar Bear Population is
Decreasing”. You need to look at the
whole picture to get the whole story.
In Self-Selection Bias, a
participants’ decision to
participate may be
correlated with traits
that affect the study,
making the participants
If you were to set up a
booth to ask people
about their grooming
The people who respond
are more likely to be
those who take more
time to primp in the
morning than those who
just throw on something
and head out the door.
If you have a survey that asks:
Don’t you think that CSE3 TAs are paid
A) Yes they should earn more
B) No they should not earn more
C) No opinion
You are suggesting by the tone of the question
what you believe the answer should be. That will
bias your results (is it always bad?)
If you ask people in a survey about how often
they shower, or how often they recycle, your
data is going to be biased by
the fact that nobody wants to
admit to doing something that
is considered socially
Adding in a Sampling bias into your data
collection is an important tool if you want to
lie, cheat, manipulate, or mislead with your
Data analysis is a process of gathering,
modeling, and transforming data with the
goal of highlighting useful information,
suggesting conclusions, and supporting
We saw in lab that if you weren’t careful, you
could accidentally miscalculate the trendline
for the water temperature readings by
including uneven data:
1/30/2001 1/30/2002 1/30/2003 1/30/2004 1/30/2005 1/30/2006 1/30/2007 1/30/2008 1/30/2009
Mean Ocean Temperature
What if you were a real-estate agent and you
were trying to convince people to move into a
You could, with perfect honesty and
“truthfullness” tell different people that the
average income in the neighborhood is:
The $150,000 figure is the arithmetic mean of the
incomes of all the families in the neighborhood.
The $35,000 figure is the median.
The $10,000 figure is the mode.
This particular neighborhood is lucky enough to be near
a cliff… and the ONE home with an ocean view is a
giant mansion on 50 acres that is owned by a
Hollywood Star. With gates. And spikes. And security
to keep out the riff raff of the rest of the
neighborhood of poor people and the few middle
class that live nearby.
$35,000 20 people
Interpreting data often
involves displaying it in
some useful way.
To interpret our Water
Temperature data, we
created charts to
Charts are a type of
1/1 2/1 3/1 4/1 5/1 6/1 7/1 8/1 9/110/111/112/1
Daily Ocean Temperature Statistics
If your goal is to lie, cheat, manipulate, or
mislead, Graphical Displays are your friend…
The principals of Graphical Excellence (GE) are:
GE is the well-designed presentation of interesting data
– a matter of substance, of statistics, and of design.
GE consists of complex ideas communicated with
clarity, precision, and efficiency.
GE is that which gives to the viewer the greatest
number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink
in the smallest space.
To lie, cheat, manipulate, or mislead, do NOT
follow this advice!!!
This is real data. The top graph shows the cosmic radiation rate in
neutrons per hour. The lower is the temperature change since 1975 when
it started. All from the BBC’s website. They weren’t trying to lie, cheat,
manipulate, or mislead! No sirree.
Here, the data is the
same but by changing
the axis labels,
someone was able to
really suggest that the
population was much
greater than it was.
Once again, both of these charts show the same
information if you ONLY look at the HEIGHT of
the frogs. The volume of an image is a great way
to lie, cheat, manipulate, or mislead…
Easy to read
Lots of useful
Six variables are plotted:
• The size of the army
• It’s location on a 2D surface
• Direction of army movement
• Temperature on various
dates during the retreat
Look at the sources. If none are given, do NOT
trust the information.
Check to see if there are any obvious sources of
bias in the data. Look at how the data was
collected and where it was collected from.
Look very closely at the data axis and legend.
And finally, do NOT believe everything you are
shown just because it is “Science” and “Data”.
Try to figure out if the source has some ulterior
motive to manipulate your opinion.
How to Lie with Statistics
By Darrell Huff, Norton, New York, 1954
The Visual Display of Quantitative
By Edward Tufte, Graphics Press, February 1997
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