Making Sense of Statistics
Two paragraphs can be exceptionally thought provoking when they get right to the point. In a simple introduction to the New York Times Book Review last week, the editors highlighted two ideas about statistics and stories that we want to share.
1. Statistics are essential in understanding the world.
Quoting from the article: “Malcolm Gladwell recently said that if he were trying to break into journalism today, he would start by getting a master’s degree in statistics. The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker . . . might second this advice. Asked via e-mail what is the most important scientific concept that lay people fail to understand, he responded: “Statistical reasoning. A difficulty in grasping probability underlies fallacies from medical quackery and stock-market scams to misinterpreting sex differences and the theory of evolution.”
2. Statisticians often fail to communicate in ways that help.
Steven Pinker continued: “Academics lack perspective. In a debate on whether the world is round, they would argue ‘no,’ because it’s an oblate spheroid. They suffer from ‘the curse of knowledge’: the inability to imagine what it’s like not to know something that they know.”
These two ideas resonated with us because they address the two critical components of what we try to achieve for our clients: answering critical questions with high level expertise and then communicating those answers to the managers who need them most. Market research is not delivering on its promise until it helps you with both of these components.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.