Police Psychology | Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
I can’t wait to see the polls this week. Two weeks ago Trump was behind by 10 points, earlier last week by 5 points, the end of last week by 2 points and yesterday he was ahead by 3 points in the states that mattered. Yeah right! I can’t wait to see what kind of fantasy the news wants us to buy this week. Not that these really aren’t the polls, but the methods and presentation do not seem very accurate anymore. In fact, statistics do not seem accurate anymore in general. You can’t trust them. It brings back the old quote from Mark Twain “There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
In 2001, a student and professors dealt with rumors that Greek Hospitals were doing large number of appendix operations on Albanian citizens. It was not reported in the statistics. So they studied the rumors in six hospitals and in fact an Albanian was 3 times more likely to have a healthy appendix taken out of them than a Greek citizen. Three times more likely to undergo an operation that wasn’t needed! It was reported in an article called “Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Science.” What would a “lies, damned lies and policing” look like?
It has been said that 92% of statistics are made up on the spot. Sound a little high, maybe it is more like 76% of statistic are made up on the spot. Actually, I have seen from 26% to 92% when talking about what is made up on the spot – sort of evidence that the premise is true whatever the number is. So let me just point to four ways statistics can lie to you by looking at some of the myths of policing. (more…)