I like perfectly cut salads. My mother used to cut flawless thin slices of fruits and vegetables, all slices of similar width. Many of my relatives were in awe of the skill. I tried many times to do the same but was never able to, until recently. I discovered a sure shot way to cut perfect slices even if I don’t have the skill level of my mother. Believe it or not I discovered that secret in a course in Statistics.
For as long as I can remember, I have hated statistics but now I realize it was all because of the way it was taught. It is easy to hate the subject of Probability and Statistics when you see it as dry formulas and equations (and unsolvable problems). I was studying, but I started appreciating it only when I understood about the subject and its uses (and misuses). When you understand the intuition behind concepts, you gain a perspective which changes your life for the better. I will elaborate on a few concepts in this website.
What are the benefits of learning statistics? You start seeing more clearly. You don’t get fooled as easily as before, by media, by companies or by even your own biases. Concepts of statistics can improve your everyday life, and this statement is not an exaggeration.
Here is one concept you can use immediately. What you get to see (or hear about) is only a sample, not the population. Population is the complete pool – everyone or everything that is being studied. It is often impossible to study the whole population. Hence what you only get to deal with in real life is a small sample from the population.
Any insights derived from the sample cannot be generalized to the entire population unless:
- The sample is sufficiently large
- It is chosen at random
Isn’t this concept too basic to be of any use? No, this can be life changing. Read on to see how.
Imagine going to your house and seeing your wife in a ferocious mood. She launches a barrage of words at you. Before you retaliate with anger, remind yourself – “you are seeing just a sample of her personality, she is not like this forever”. But keep this learning to yourself. DO NOT try explaining to her that what you are seeing is a sample!
Remember, you see only one face and facet of a person at a time but the person as a whole is different from the one face you see.
Do not confuse the sample with the population.
News – Another opportunity to remind yourself of this concept. Media will always try to create mountain of a molehill. One incident happens and the whole nation has turned intolerant. Remember once again, what they present is a very small sample, not sufficient to generalize anything about the population.
Can you think of any other area in life where this concept is useful?
Ah, and if you haven’t got it yet, the secret to making a perfect salad is to eat the imperfect parts before serving! Show them the sample, not the population.
Remember this quote:
Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.
– Benny Hill