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« April 13, 2006 | Main | April 17, 2006 »

14 April 2006

Statistical Humor

You, Jong-Sung

Here are some good statistics jokes for all of you.

  • "When she told me I was average, she was just being mean".
  • “Old statisticians never die-- they just become insignificant. - Gary Ramseyer, First Internet Gallery of Statistical Jokes
  • "Three statisticians go deer hunting with bows and arrows. They spot a big buck and take aim. One shoots and his arrow flies off three meters to the right. The second shoots and his arrow flies off three meters to the left. The third statistician jumps up and down yelling, "We got him! We got him (on average)!" - Richard Lomax and Seyed Moosavi, 1998, Using Humor to Teach Statistics: Must They Be Orthogonal?

Is the use of humor an effective way of teaching statistics? Lomax and Moosavi (1998), citing J. Bryant and D. Zillmann (1988) suggest that there is little empirical evidence that humor either (1) increases student attention, (2) improves the classroom climate or (3) reduces tension. Fortunately, however, the same research indicates that humor actually does (1) increase enjoyment and (2) motivates students to achieve higher. Hence, it may not be a bad idea to incorporate some statistical jokes (their article and Gary Ramseyer's website are two good sources).

This isn't a joke as such, but here is another interesting statistical dialogue from Lomax and Moosavi:

Q. I read that a sex survey said the typical male has six sexual partners in his life and the typical female has two. Assuming the typical male is heterosexual, and since the number of males and females is approximately equal, how can this be true?

A. You’ve assumed that "typical" refers to the arithmetical average of the numbers. But "average" also means "middle" and "most common". (Statisticians call these three kinds of averages the mean, the median and the mode, respectively.) Here’s how the three are used: Say you’re having five guests at a dinner party. Their ages are 100, 99 17, 2, and 2. You tell the butler that their average age is 44 (100+99+17+2+2=220¸5=44). Just to be safe, you tell the footman their average age is 17 (the age right in the middle). And to be sure everything is right, you tell the cook their average age is 2 (the most common age). Voila! Everyone is treated to pureed peas accompanied by Michael Jackson’s latest CD, followed by a fine cognac. In the case of the sex survey, "typical" may have referred to "most common", which would fit right in with all the stereotypes. (That is, if you believe sex surveys.)

Posted by Jong-sung You at 6:00 AM