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How to Not Fall Victim to Skewed Statistics

When you hear things like, ‘ Florida is home to six of the deadliest highways in America ‘, or

Florida ranks seventh best state for education , it may be second nature to think, “Well, according to whom?”

Everyday, new information is spewed out to the general public–new studies, new research. But, as a general consumer, how can you not fall victim to skewed statistics? We spoke to Dr. Gina Tran, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). We wanted to know how to break down surveys and studies to see if the data is really what it claims to be.

Dr. Tran says there are a lot of variables to consider. Take a report about deadliest highways for example.

“That may sound like a scary number at first when it may be presented that way, however we don’t know how many people go on this road on a daily basis,” she said. “So when you present it as a percentage, that gives you a little bit more of a frame of reference.”

A study may say that a certain amount people died in one year on a particular highway, however how many people drive on that certain road daily? If that fatality number, more like 10% of the overall traffic that meets a road? It seems less scary right?

Also knowing how a study was conducted can help the data seem less intimidating. How did researchers set up the questions. How many people did they test when they put out a statistic? Was the data published in a reputable journal in the respected field or published on a blog site?

These are the questions you may want to ask when faced with big headlines.

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