Statistics for Sustainable Development > Blog > Statistics used inadvertently

Opinion Piece

Statistics used inadvertently

Many people think that statistics is a complex and difficult subject. That only professionals who have received training will know how to use its skills and knowledge. In some common areas where statistics is used, such as in weather forecasting, the census, election, etc., they all need to use a lot of manpower and material resources to collect the data, summarise it and perform complex calculations to obtain the required results.

Common terms in statistics include count, mean, median, mode, maximum, minimum, range, variance, standard deviation, sample size, coefficient, correlation, normal distribution, parameter, population, etc. Okay, that’s enough already, please let me go. Just seeing these technical terms makes me dizzy, not to mention understanding what they actually mean and how to apply them. Let alone the more complex mathematical formulas and different types of graphs.

Image 1: An esoteric perception of statistics
But is statistics so esoteric and difficult to understand? This reminds me of some examples of my day-to-day life in the UK, where I unwittingly apply statistics.
I take my son to school every morning by bus. It always arrives on time, rarely delayed, and never absent. But things get complicated when I set off to work. Delays became frequent, and occasionally the bus doesn’t even turn up. After I’ve waited a lengthy amount of time, sometimes two buses come at once.

Image 2: Indefinite bus waiting
At this point, I have to open the bus company's mobile app. I check the bus schedule again and see where the bus is in real time (this is only used as a reference by the way, as often the bus’s precise location is not shown). These disappointing experiences have taught me to check the real-time location of the bus before leaving the office, which improves my chances of catching the bus.
In autumn last year, I was going to buy a television. Every November in the UK, major stores will organise the best deals in their Black Friday sales. There are attractive discounts on many items including home appliances. Everyone loves a discount, so why not wait a bit to get it? Chances of no more Black Friday sales are very small. If I am willing to start enjoying my new television later, it is worth taking the chance to exchange a little time for a discount that has a considerable chance?
It's only now summer in the UK, and I'm already thinking about what home appliances to buy for this year’s Black Friday sales. A vacuum cleaner? An instant pot? An air conditioning unit? What new toys are you looking to buy this year?