22 April, 2020

Statistics #AtoZChallenge

When I was in college, I was surprised to find that the course called "Statistics" fell under the banner of the Psychology department. I remember thinking "Aren't Statistics numbers?"

I never took the class, but I learned a lot about Statistics in a graduate course on research methods. Statistics, when considered for research, are a scientific tool. However, the presentation of Statistics often appears to be psychologically driven. Accentuate the part you want to draw attention to. The perception can change depending on how you say it.

Statistics are purest without a spin doctor. Here is a pure Statistic: 
On April 21, the US had 25,985 new cases of Covid-19. (Vietnam had 0.)

<All Statistics herein come from THIS website.>

Some people will look at that Statistic and think how great it is that the number is going down. (The day before was 28,123.) YES! That is good. It's progress. In my opinion, it is small progress, but the Statistic is... progress.

The number of new cases per day seems to be leveling out around 20-30k. But each day's new cases are piled onto the those remaining from before. 

On April 21, the US had 690,503 total active cases, up from 677,856 the day before. The number of active cases is still on the rise. 

I check that website  daily, just a quick peek at the world, and my home in Vietnam. (We are 5 days with no new cases. Bars and restaurants can re-open tomorrow.)

I see Statistics being spun all over the news. I don't listen. I look at them myself. 

To look at a more personal Statistic and my personal views on it...

When my sister died - wow, 3 months ago already! - it was ruled a heart attack. She now joins the Statistic of female deaths from heart attack. Known to be the leading cause of death for women in the US.

Certainly her heart stopped beating. But there was no autopsy. Her cardiologist had given her a clean bill of health just a week prior to her death. Was he wrong? How did she really die? Was it, in fact, a freak heart attack? We will never know, but to the American Heart Association, the Red Cross, and everyone involved in fundraising for heart disease, she is now one of theirs.

It doesn't really matter. She's dead. And that's why there was no autopsy. Does it matter? 

Regardless, I guess my point is: Be careful what you pay attention to. Numbers can be painted in various colors. Don't believe a meme. Look it up. Or, if you can't be bothered to check it, at least don't spread it!


  1. Well, on that I will not agree: news have to be ckecked, no "if you can't be bothered to check it", it's a citizen right and duty to check. I agree with "don't spread it" ;)

    1. Exactly my point. We have to verify everything these days. However, knowing that many don't, I wish they would at least not spread the crap they aren't verifying!

  2. There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. I believe that was Mark Twain, but as I'm not verifying, take that with a pinch of salt.

    I like math, but I have never been able to understand statistics. Figuring those things out is confusing.

    1. Agreed.

      And I appreciate that you are clarifying that you're not verifying;)

  3. I'm sorry about your sister passing. I lost a brother to a heart attack March 2nd. It is the sort of death that stuns everyone in that they are so unexpected.

    You are so right about statistics. I see one where the rates of death by all sorts of means rank with covid. The only problem is the numbers are not nearly correct nor close. Sometimes we are nothing but loudmouths in the states.

    1. And social media doesn't help. People who would hold their tongue in some public settings just blurt out every thought on the internet.

  4. The connection between statistics and psychology is quite interesting. Never thought about it.
    By the way, I was just hearing on BBC how Vietnam has managed to curb well the infection though the nation has a land border with China.

    1. My husband posted a graphic about it on his facebook yesterday. The jumped on it early... in part *because* of our shared border. We have had zero deaths, and now seven days straight with no new cases. The government is slowly allowing businesses to reopen.


I enjoy a good debate. Feel free to shake things up. Tell me I'm wrong. Ask me why I have such a weird opinion. ...or, just laugh and tell how this relates to you and your life.