Sometimes, even the art of presenting factually correct statistics can distort our understanding. For example, if a landlord was attempting to persuade its buyer that his or her property’s value has increased much more drastically than other properties, a landlord may use optical illusions to deceive a buyer’s perception. This can be done by reducing the ranges of the Y-axis on a graph that represents the landlord’s property; giving the impression of a steeper climb of property value over a period time than the other. The information is correct according to reason, however by confusing our perception by the arts (drawing steeper trend lines), our knowledge on the subject is distorted.
Although all statistics cannot show the absolute truth of an issue, we as the audience must know how to determine what statistics are reasonably accurate interpretations of an issue, and what are merely biased interpretations on an issue. Federal statistics are relatively reliable due to its professionalism and responsibility to the country. However, in many cases in history such as the First World War, Canada and other countries produced incorrect statistics and censorship on the number of casualties of war for both Canada and the enemy to promote citizens at home to enter the army.
A good method to use when justifying whether or not a statistic can be acceptable, is to ask some basic critical questions about the statistics presented to us such as, “what is the message they are trying to send in their statistics” because creators often will go to extreme extents to find evidence to support their claims. Ask, “Does the author have degrees showing proof of Education” to help understand whether or not the creator is knowledgeable of what they are presenting.
Check the date of the statistics published, or the date of the sources used to create the statistics to avoid obsolete information. Ask whether or not the statistics are reasonable, or do they sound too extreme to try and notice errors in generalizations. Checking the sources is often helpful as well. Realizing where the statistics are presented in; for example, a statistic presented on a personal homepage regarding federal issues will be less reliable than statistics found in actual federal reports. Ask if there are competing statistics to see both sides of the argument. Most importantly it is helpful to find out what was the method for retrieving these statistics so that we can see if the statistics contain any biased generalizations in language or calculations.
Statistics are used in many ways in our society to provide interpretations of the reality. Statistics often always contain biases and even errors that may distort the reality of an issue depending on the creator’s motives. It is impossible for us as the society to ignore statistics simply because there is a possibility of receiving biased interpretations of an issue. All statistics contain mistakes because the primary objective of statistics is to present brief and simple interpretations of the truth. It is whether or not the statistics captures the heart of an issue of great complexity that determines its accuracy. It does not require great effort for the audience to quickly determine the accuracy of statistics presented with some critical questions; therefore we must approach statistics with criticism rather than with all our trust.