Sadistic Statistics

April 1, 2009 by  
Filed under By The Book

Gideon Horowitz’s classic book has a name that many people can relate to. Sometimes it does seem that statistics was invented to cause us problems, rather than solve them. The fates are sadistic.

Mr. Horowitz includes a good review of math functions: fractions (adding, subtracting..), percentiles, negative numbers, and squares, roots and how to approach formulas. I assume that you have this knowledge, or can Google it. And since its 30 years since this book was written, computers and calculators are so much more accessible. So I leave all of these things to technology. I probably shouldn’t, given that our math literacy may have dropped over that same time frame. I might have to reconsider.

He spends more time on coding than I do, and covers several topic my book ignores completely (chi-square, the sign test, and Wilcoxon signed-rank test). One of Horowitz’s best illustrations is how we misuse sampling in everyday life. We meet one person but conclude that “all men are alike.” In fact, we haven’t collected much data on the subject, certainly not enough to justify such a conclusion. It’s the danger we face when we use small samples: they often lead us to unwarranted speculation.

Although the book is out of print, it’s a good read, easy to understand, and worth having if you can find a copy. The official title is Sadistic Statistics: An Intro to Statistics for the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Avery Publishing, 1979-1981).

Here is an outline of its contents, and links to my take on those topics.

Sadistic Statistics

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: A review of simple things
     Fractions, percentiles, negative numbers
Chapter 3: Basic concepts
   Variables and constants, levels of measurement, 
    Populations and samples
    See Day 1: Measurement
Chapter 4: Organizing your data
    Data tables and coding
    See Day 1: Measurement
    See Coding
Chapter 5: Measures of central tendency
    Central tendency, mean, median & mode
    See Day 2: Central Tendency
Chapter 6: Measures of dispersion
    Range, variance, and Sum of Squares
    See Day 3: Dispersion
Chapter 7: The normal distribution
    See Day 2: Central Tendency
Chapter 8: A brief introduction to sampling and to Where it leads
    Sample size, proportions, and impact of poor sampling
Chapter 9: Now do we get to probability? Probably
    See Day 7: Probability
Chapter 10: The t distribution
    Degrees of freedom, t-tests, and 1- and 2-tailed hypotheses
    See Day 8: Independent t-Test
Chapter 11: The chi squared distribution
    See Day 5: Correlation
Chapter 12: Correlation
    See Day 5: Correlation
Chapter 13: Just for fun
    Sign test, Wilcoxon signed ranks, phi and c coefficients



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