Applied Business Statistics
July, 11, 2013
A misuse of statistics occurs when a statistical argument asserts a falsehood. In some cases, the misuse may be accidental. In others, it is purposeful and for the gain of the perpetrator. “When the statistical reason involved is false or misapplied, this constitutes a statistical fallacy”. (Darrell, 1991)
The false statistics trap can be quite damaging to the quest for knowledge. For example, in medical science, correcting a falsehood may take decades and cost lives. Or in advertising, for example advertisement, usually people trust it 100%, and this trust can lead them to hurt themselves.
Men’s L’Oreal anti-ageing product, and had been advertised by two different actors on TV. The statistic used in this advertisement states” 75% of 109 agree”. To begin with, a sample of 109 is far too small to generalize to the rest of the population of men in the world. Also, 75% of 109 are only 81 men. When you hear in an advertisement that 75% agree that a product works well, you think it’s a large enough amount for you to believe that the product will work well for you, and go out to buy it. However, if you looked at advertising statistics more closely, and like in this case realized that the 75% is only 81 people, perhaps this would change your opinion on whether a product is actually that good and worth buying. Another issue about the statistics used in this advertisement is that is says “75% agree”…but agree with what? The actor in the advert claims that this product provides 5 actions that work on your skin, but then only goes on to mention 3 of these actions which are that your skin becomes smoother, firmer, and revitalized. Does this mean that out of the sample of 109 men that were tested, the 81 that agreed, agreed that the product makes their skin smoother, firmer and revitalized, or that the 5 actions (two of which are not mentioned) work on their skin? What makes this situation even more unclear is that when I researched this product further, I found that it was created for the purpose of combating the signs of male skin fatigue. Was the sample of 109 tested for improvements on their skin fatigue, or whether their skin became smoother, firmer and revitalized after product use? Did the sample tested even have skin fatigue? The questions raised outline clear sampling and testing issues, which can affect how reliable and valid the statistic presented really is. The last issue about the misuse of statistics in this advertisement I am going to mention is the age of the actors used in the advertisement in relation to the product use. In the YouTube clip in this blog, the actor named Hugh Laurie is 45 years old, and he states in this advertisement that he is 45, and implies that this is the age where something needs to be done about ageing skin. What is interesting to note is that another actor, Gerard Butler has also been used to advertise the same product; however, he is 41 years old.
Numbers and formulas are supposed to represent "objective scientific data" you cannot deny