Statistics are everywhere: in news articles, sports, government reports, research papers, just to name a few. Using statistics is so popular because they provide evidence and credibility to claims.
Here are just a few examples of how a variety of fields use statistics:
Journalists use data to substantiate their reporting.
Political leaders use data to inform their decisions.
Sports teams and businesses lean heavily on statistical algorithms for their actions.
Psychologists use statistics to give meaning to the data they collected.
As much as statistics are used, statistics are also frequently misused. One of the most important mediums in which statistics are often misused is the news. Since the claims made in the news often impact the world around you, it’s important for you to be able to critically assess those statistics.
Consider the following two sentences:
“Americans are spending a lot of time watching TV.”
“Adult Americans are spending on average five hours and four minutes watching TV per day.”
Although both sentences make the same point, the statistic used in the second sentence makes the claim much more specific than the first. The specificity provided by statistics is a powerful tool that allows you to support your own claims or drive your own decision-making in any field of work or study.