[tweetmeme source=”lovestats” only_single=false]Statistics are just numbers. 1 + 2 is always 3 even if the 2 was written in a disgusting colour. People, on the other hand, have crappy days all the time. It could be because a lunch was packed without cookies or because horrible tragedy has struck.
So why does it matter? Because crappy days mean someone:
- doesn’t answer a phone survey
- lies on their taxes
- makes a mistake on the census survey
- accidentally skips page 2 on a paper survey
- drips sarcasm all over their facebook page
You recognize these. We call them data quality issues.
Statistics lull us into a false sense of accuracy. Statistics are based on premises which do not hold true for beings with independent thought. Statistics lead us to believe that representative samples are possible when theory dictates it is impossible. Though a million times better than the humanities can ever dream of achieving, even “real” science can’t achieve representative samples. The universe is just far too big to allow that.
In other words, even when you’ve done everything statistically possible to ensure a rep sample, humans and their independent thought have had a crappy day somewhere in your research design.
There is no such thing as a rep sample. There are only good approximations of what we think a rep sample would look like.
And because I AM CANADIAN, I apologize if I have crushed any notions.
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