BookshelfJacob deGroot-Maggetti

The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics – Tim Harford

Thoughts: The Data Detective is pitched as a corrective to Darrell Huff’s How to Lie with Statistics, which spends lots of time pointing out the ways that stats can be used to deceive, but doesn’t really include examples of statistics being used responsibly. While it touched on many themes I was already familiar with, like Phil Tetlock’s studies on forecasting (also in The Signal and the Noise and Enlightenment Now) and motivated reasoning (also in The Scout Mindset), I still found a bunch of new and useful ideas. A solid book, which I’d be happy recommending to anyone interested in thinking clearly in today’s world.

(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering. I read this as an e-book, so page numbers are as they appeared in the app I used, Libby.)

Harford, Tim. 2021. The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics. Riverhead Books.

Introduction: How to Lie With Statistics

Rule One: Search Your Feelings

Rule Two: Ponder Your Personal Experience

Rule Three: Avoid Premature Enumeration

Rule Four: Step Back and Enjoy the View

Rule Five: Get the Backstory

Rule Six: Ask Who Is Missing

Rule Seven: Demand Transparency When the Computer Says No

Rule Eight: Don’t Take Statistical Bedrock for Granted

Rule Nine: Remember That Misinformation Can Be Beautiful Too

Rule Ten: Keep an Open Mind

The Golden Rule: Be Curious

Posted: Mar 01, 2022. Last updated: Mar 01, 2022.