Kelly’s Korner: Statistics in the Media

 by Kelly Du

It’s so easy to believe in the credibility of numbers. They provide something concrete and real to base our conclusions off of. But living in this media obsessed world, it’s easy to see now that these statistics that we read and hear about in the news mean something much more. There are hidden motives behind every statistic.

The sake of doing studies and surveys is to make a business decision or attract media interest. If a study ends up not being what a company was hoping for, they’ll quickly discard the information, or manipulate the results into what they want the public to believe. Companies privately buy and sell information to advance their causes. In doing so, independent research has dwindled in this country as the commercialization of research progresses. In return, ethics are compromised in this sort of practice. Where will the boundary between basic scientific research and business run research end?

Studies are usually made to seem much more dramatic and definitive than they really are. Companies tend to over report positive results, and under report negative ones, which in turn changes the public’s perception on things. Also, how a research is conducted greatly influences the type of responses that are received. It’s difficult to stay neutral when human emotion, wording of questions, their order, intonations, and pacing are all factors into the responses. Sometimes, researchers will use this to their advantage to get the response they want.

The problem today is that so many of us rely on statistics. Instead of using common sense and intelligence, we can’t help but believe what every number has to say. Inaccurate and corrupt information is present all around us, and yet we can’t tell the difference between what’s real or not. Although, this is not to say that all research done today is fraudulent. There are still many professionals “who aspire to quality, objectivity, and accuracy.” We as consumers just have to be wary of the statistics that are portrayed in the media.

Crossen, Cynthia. “The Study Game.” Tainted Truth: The Manipulation of Fact in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. Print.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Kelly’s Korner: Statistics in the Media

  1. A.M.

    You raised some interesting points. I definitely agree that the media tends to stretch the truth to make their studies fit what they want to convey. It’s very difficult sometimes to tell what is accurate and what’s not.

  2. Rachel

    It’s fascinating to me how numbers hold such great power over our emotions and thoughts. I have to admit though that I like relying on statistics to help me make decisions. I don’t think all statistics that are out there are meant to deceive or advance a business related cause, but I can see how some companies can take advantage of statistics to deceive the public. We just have to be smarter about everything we see and hear.

  3. Yixing

    Wow, this is very eye-opening for me because I tend to rely on stats for supporting evidence. I guess the power is in the hands of the person who delivers this information…kind of scary if you think about it…

  4. Jay

    Wow, I never realized the business motive behind statistics. I thought a lot of it was just about doing experiments and observations to learn more about our world, but I guess it’s not always like this. There are more hidden purposes behind them. It’s scary to think about how statistics can be misleading now.

  5. GG

    Hmm, I definitely learned something new today. I’ll be more aware of the statistics that are out there. Numbers are such a powerful tool in today’s society that they can influence us so easily.