Have I mentioned that I'm a geek? Well, I am, and I was reminded of that fact this morning, listening to the radio while building towers of random crap for Wallaby to knock over (rinse, repeat). Said the morning show hostess on the radio:
So, there's a new study out today, sponsored by (insert name of undershirt company-Hanes? Fruit of the Loom? I forget). It says that men make more money when they tuck in their shirts at work. Men who tuck make an average of 77k, whereas men who don't tuck make an average of 60k.
(Insert semi-witty banter with the male cohost, who is apparently a non-tucker.)
Me: That's a penalty buzzer on the play. You see, I'll bet you a box of Cheerios that they just compared salaries between tuckers and non-tuckers, and didn't control for profession … Even though I think we can both agree that certain higher-paid professions would, as a matter of course, expect one to tuck in one's shirt, whereas certain less well-paid professions would come with no such expectation. So there's an inherent bias in their calculation.
Wallaby: (knocks over a tower composed of six blocks, a rubber ducky, and three giant LEGOs)
Me: My thoughts exactly.
To give credit where it's due, the hostess mentioned that this was, indeed, the case, and thus the findings of the study should be viewed with some caution. (Okay, she didn't use exactly those words, but that was the gist.) But it got me thinking about other situations where the media lies with so-called statistics.
"Our #1 best selling sofa!" Which isn't terribly impressive if, say, their #2 most popular sofa sold ten units last year and this one sold twice that.
"100% customer satisfaction!" How, exactly, are you measuring this?
"99% accurate" Do a Google search on how home pregnancy tests define this term. It's an eye-opener!
Which isn't to say that we're not guilty of the same shenanigans in the writing world … My last Mustang Ridge book was a top five Amazon best seller! (For new releases Western Fiction, that is.) If you make the niche small enough, eventually everything is a bestseller. Which really takes the oomph out of the word, don't you think?
Is there a solution? I'm not sure. I don't know if there's even a problem. But I do know that most of us out here on the other end of some of these claims aren't as dumb as the claim-ers are hoping. And then they wonder why a smart consumer doesn't take everything they're told at face value!