Lying With Statistics, and Really Lying With Statistics

November 4, 2011
Posted by Jay Livingston

“The #1 way to lie with statistics is . . . to just lie!” says Andrew Gelman, who a) knows much about statistics and b) is very good at spotting statistical dishonesty.

But maybe there’s a difference between lying with statistics and just plain making stuff up.

I’ve commented before about social psychologists’ affinity for Candid-Camera deception, but this Dutch practitioner goes way beyond that.  [The Telegraph has the story .] 

The committee set up to investigate Prof Stapel said after its preliminary investigation it had found "several dozen publications in which use was made of fictitious data" . . .
[Stapel’s] paper that linked thoughts of eating meat eating with anti-social behaviour was met with scorn and disbelief when it was publicised in August, it took several doctoral candidates Stapel was mentoring to unmask him. . . .

the three graduate students grew suspicious of the data Prof Stapel had supplied them without allowing them to participate in the actual research. When they ran statistical tests on it themselves they found it too perfect to be true and went to the university's dean with their suspicions.
What’s truly unsettling is to think that maybe he’s not the only one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Making up fake results would be ridiculously easy in many fields and kinds of studies. I like to assume it's not prevalent in sociology, but why wouldn't it be? (On a technical note, I think with modern stats packages it should be easy to introduce perturbations in the data so it doesn't look too perfect.)