Statistics

Last updated The normal distribution, a very common probability density, useful because of the central limit theorem. Scatter plots are used in descriptive statistics to show the observed relationships between different variables, here using the Iris flower data set.

Statistics is the discipline that concerns the collection, organization, displaying, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data.    In applying statistics to a scientific, industrial, or social problem, it is conventional to begin with a statistical population or a statistical model to be studied. Populations can be diverse groups of people or objects such as "all people living in a country" or "every atom composing a crystal". Statistics deals with every aspect of data, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments.  See glossary of probability and statistics.

In statistics, a population is a set of similar items or events which is of interest for some question or experiment. A statistical population can be a group of existing objects or a hypothetical and potentially infinite group of objects conceived as a generalization from experience. A common aim of statistical analysis is to produce information about some chosen population.

A statistical model is a mathematical model that embodies a set of statistical assumptions concerning the generation of sample data. A statistical model represents, often in considerably idealized form, the data-generating process.

Most of the terms listed in Wikipedia glossaries are already defined and explained within Wikipedia itself. However, glossaries like this one are useful for looking up, comparing and reviewing large numbers of terms together. You can help enhance this page by adding new terms or writing definitions for existing ones.

Contents

When census data cannot be collected, statisticians collect data by developing specific experiment designs and survey samples. Representative sampling assures that inferences and conclusions can reasonably extend from the sample to the population as a whole. An experimental study involves taking measurements of the system under study, manipulating the system, and then taking additional measurements using the same procedure to determine if the manipulation has modified the values of the measurements. In contrast, an observational study does not involve experimental manipulation. A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. This term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses include traditional culture, business, supplies, and traffic censuses. The United Nations defines the essential features of population and housing censuses as "individual enumeration, universality within a defined territory, simultaneity and defined periodicity", and recommends that population censuses be taken at least every 10 years. United Nations recommendations also cover census topics to be collected, official definitions, classifications and other useful information to co-ordinate international practices.

A statistician is a person who works with theoretical or applied statistics. The profession exists in both the private and public sectors. It is common to combine statistical knowledge with expertise in other subjects, and statisticians may work as employees or as statistical consultants. In statistics and quantitative research methodology, a data sample is a set of data collected and the world selected from a statistical population by a defined procedure. The elements of a sample are known as sample points, sampling units or observations.

Two main statistical methods are used in data analysis: descriptive statistics, which summarize data from a sample using indexes such as the mean or standard deviation, and inferential statistics, which draw conclusions from data that are subject to random variation (e.g., observational errors, sampling variation).  Descriptive statistics are most often concerned with two sets of properties of a distribution (sample or population): central tendency (or location) seeks to characterize the distribution's central or typical value, while dispersion (or variability) characterizes the extent to which members of the distribution depart from its center and each other. Inferences on mathematical statistics are made under the framework of probability theory, which deals with the analysis of random phenomena. Data analysis is a process of inspecting, cleansing, transforming and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, informing conclusion and supporting decision-making. Data analysis has multiple facets and approaches, encompassing diverse techniques under a variety of names, and is used in different business, science, and social science domains. In today's business world, data analysis plays a role in making decisions more scientific and helping businesses operate more effectively.

A descriptive statistic is a summary statistic that quantitatively describes or summarizes features of a collection of information, while descriptive statistics in the mass noun sense is the process of using and analyzing those statistics. Descriptive statistics is distinguished from inferential statistics, in that descriptive statistics aims to summarize a sample, rather than use the data to learn about the population that the sample of data is thought to represent. This generally means that descriptive statistics, unlike inferential statistics, is not developed on the basis of probability theory, and are frequently nonparametric statistics. Even when a data analysis draws its main conclusions using inferential statistics, descriptive statistics are generally also presented. For example, in papers reporting on human subjects, typically a table is included giving the overall sample size, sample sizes in important subgroups, and demographic or clinical characteristics such as the average age, the proportion of subjects of each sex, the proportion of subjects with related comorbidities, etc.

In statistics and research design, an index is a composite statistic – a measure of changes in a representative group of individual data points, or in other words, a compound measure that aggregates multiple indicators. Indexes summarize and rank specific observations.

A standard statistical procedure involves the test of the relationship between two statistical data sets, or a data set and synthetic data drawn from an idealized model. A hypothesis is proposed for the statistical relationship between the two data sets, and this is compared as an alternative to an idealized null hypothesis of no relationship between two data sets. Rejecting or disproving the null hypothesis is done using statistical tests that quantify the sense in which the null can be proven false, given the data that are used in the test. Working from a null hypothesis, two basic forms of error are recognized: Type I errors (null hypothesis is falsely rejected giving a "false positive") and Type II errors (null hypothesis fails to be rejected and an actual relationship between populations is missed giving a "false negative").  Multiple problems have come to be associated with this framework: ranging from obtaining a sufficient sample size to specifying an adequate null hypothesis. [ citation needed ]

A statistical hypothesis, sometimes called confirmatory data analysis, is a hypothesis that is testable on the basis of observing a process that is modeled via a set of random variables. A statistical hypothesis test is a method of statistical inference. Commonly, two statistical data sets are compared, or a data set obtained by sampling is compared against a synthetic data set from an idealized model. A hypothesis is proposed for the statistical relationship between the two data sets, and this is compared as an alternative to an idealized null hypothesis that proposes no relationship between two data sets. The comparison is deemed statistically significant if the relationship between the data sets would be an unlikely realization of the null hypothesis according to a threshold probability—the significance level. Hypothesis tests are used when determining what outcomes of a study would lead to a rejection of the null hypothesis for a pre-specified level of significance.

In statistical hypothesis testing, the alternative hypothesis is a position that states something is happening, a new theory is true instead of an old one. It is also known as the research hypothesis because it is constructed from literature review, previous studies, etc. In inferential statistics, the null hypothesis is a general statement or default position that there is nothing new happening, like there is no association among groups, or no relationship between two measured phenomena. Testing the null hypothesis—and thus concluding that there are or are not grounds for believing that there is a relationship between two phenomena —is a central task in the modern practice of science; the field of statistics gives precise criteria for rejecting a null hypothesis.

Measurement processes that generate statistical data are also subject to error. Many of these errors are classified as random (noise) or systematic (bias), but other types of errors (e.g., blunder, such as when an analyst reports incorrect units) can also occur. The presence of missing data or censoring may result in biased estimates and specific techniques have been developed to address these problems.

Statistical bias is a feature of a statistical technique or of its results whereby the expected value of the results differs from the true underlying quantitative parameter being estimated. The bias of an estimator of a parameter should not be confused with its degree of precision as the degree of precision is a measure of the sampling error. Mathematically Bias can be Defined as:

In statistics, missing data, or missing values, occur when no data value is stored for the variable in an observation. Missing data are a common occurrence and can have a significant effect on the conclusions that can be drawn from the data.

In statistics, engineering, economics, and medical research, censoring is a condition in which the value of a measurement or observation is only partially known.

The earliest writings on probability and statistics, statistical methods drawing from probability theory, date back to Arab mathematicians and cryptographers, notably Al-Khalil (717–786)  and Al-Kindi (801–873).   In the 18th century, statistics also started to draw heavily from calculus. In more recent years statistics has relied more on statistical software to produce tests such as descriptive analysis. 

Probability and statistics, also called statistics and probability, are two related but separate academic disciplines. Statistical analysis often uses probability distributions, and the two topics are often studied together. However, probability theory contains much that is mostly of mathematical interest and not directly relevant to statistics.

Probability theory is the branch of mathematics concerned with probability. Although there are several different probability interpretations, probability theory treats the concept in a rigorous mathematical manner by expressing it through a set of axioms. Typically these axioms formalise probability in terms of a probability space, which assigns a measure taking values between 0 and 1, termed the probability measure, to a set of outcomes called the sample space. Any specified subset of these outcomes is called an event. Mathematics during the Golden Age of Islam, especially during the 9th and 10th centuries, was built on Greek mathematics and Indian mathematics. Important progress was made, such as the full development of the decimal place-value system to include decimal fractions, the first systematised study of algebra, and advances in geometry and trigonometry.

Introduction

Statistics is a mathematical body of science that pertains to the collection, analysis, interpretation or explanation, and presentation of data,  or as a branch of mathematics.  Some consider statistics to be a distinct mathematical science rather than a branch of mathematics. While many scientific investigations make use of data, statistics is concerned with the use of data in the context of uncertainty and decision making in the face of uncertainty.  

In applying statistics to a problem, it is common practice to start with a population or process to be studied. Populations can be diverse topics such as "all people living in a country" or "every atom composing a crystal". Ideally, statisticians compile data about the entire population (an operation called census). This may be organized by governmental statistical institutes. Descriptive statistics can be used to summarize the population data. Numerical descriptors include mean and standard deviation for continuous data types (like income), while frequency and percentage are more useful in terms of describing categorical data (like education).

When a census is not feasible, a chosen subset of the population called a sample is studied. Once a sample that is representative of the population is determined, data is collected for the sample members in an observational or experimental setting. Again, descriptive statistics can be used to summarize the sample data. However, the drawing of the sample has been subject to an element of randomness, hence the established numerical descriptors from the sample are also due to uncertainty. To still draw meaningful conclusions about the entire population, inferential statistics is needed. It uses patterns in the sample data to draw inferences about the population represented, accounting for randomness. These inferences may take the form of: answering yes/no questions about the data (hypothesis testing), estimating numerical characteristics of the data (estimation), describing associations within the data (correlation) and modeling relationships within the data (for example, using regression analysis). Inference can extend to forecasting, prediction and estimation of unobserved values either in or associated with the population being studied; it can include extrapolation and interpolation of time series or spatial data, and can also include data mining.

Mathematical statistics

Mathematical statistics is the application of mathematics to statistics. Mathematical techniques used for this include mathematical analysis, linear algebra, stochastic analysis, differential equations, and measure-theoretic probability theory.  

History Gerolamo Cardano, a pioneer on the mathematics of probability.

The earliest writings on probability and statistics date back to Arab mathematicians and cryptographers, during the Islamic Golden Age between the 8th and 13th centuries. Al-Khalil (717–786) wrote the Book of Cryptographic Messages, which contains the first use of permutations and combinations, to list all possible Arabic words with and without vowels.  The earliest book on statistics is the 9th-century treatise Manuscript on Deciphering Cryptographic Messages, written by Arab scholar Al-Kindi (801–873). In his book, Al-Kindi gave a detailed description of how to use statistics and frequency analysis to decipher encrypted messages. This text laid the foundations for statistics and cryptanalysis.   Al-Kindi also made the earliest known use of statistical inference, while he and later Arab cryptographers developed the early statistical methods for decoding encrypted messages. Ibn Adlan (1187–1268) later made an important contribution, on the use of sample size in frequency analysis. 

The earliest European writing on statistics dates back to 1663, with the publication of Natural and Political Observations upon the Bills of Mortality by John Graunt.  Early applications of statistical thinking revolved around the needs of states to base policy on demographic and economic data, hence its stat- etymology. The scope of the discipline of statistics broadened in the early 19th century to include the collection and analysis of data in general. Today, statistics is widely employed in government, business, and natural and social sciences.

The mathematical foundations of modern statistics were laid in the 17th century with the development of the probability theory by Gerolamo Cardano, Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat. Mathematical probability theory arose from the study of games of chance, although the concept of probability was already examined in medieval law and by philosophers such as Juan Caramuel.  The method of least squares was first described by Adrien-Marie Legendre in 1805.

The modern field of statistics emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century in three stages.  The first wave, at the turn of the century, was led by the work of Francis Galton and Karl Pearson, who transformed statistics into a rigorous mathematical discipline used for analysis, not just in science, but in industry and politics as well. Galton's contributions included introducing the concepts of standard deviation, correlation, regression analysis and the application of these methods to the study of the variety of human characteristics—height, weight, eyelash length among others.  Pearson developed the Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient, defined as a product-moment,  the method of moments for the fitting of distributions to samples and the Pearson distribution, among many other things.  Galton and Pearson founded Biometrika as the first journal of mathematical statistics and biostatistics (then called biometry), and the latter founded the world's first university statistics department at University College London. 

Ronald Fisher coined the term null hypothesis during the Lady tasting tea experiment, which "is never proved or established, but is possibly disproved, in the course of experimentation".  

The second wave of the 1910s and 20s was initiated by William Sealy Gosset, and reached its culmination in the insights of Ronald Fisher, who wrote the textbooks that were to define the academic discipline in universities around the world. Fisher's most important publications were his 1918 seminal paper The Correlation between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance , which was the first to use the statistical term, variance, his classic 1925 work Statistical Methods for Research Workers and his 1935 The Design of Experiments ,    where he developed rigorous design of experiments models. He originated the concepts of sufficiency, ancillary statistics, Fisher's linear discriminator and Fisher information.  In his 1930 book The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection he applied statistics to various biological concepts such as Fisher's principle  ). Nevertheless, A.W.F. Edwards has remarked that it is "probably the most celebrated argument in evolutionary biology".  (about the sex ratio), the Fisherian runaway,       a concept in sexual selection about a positive feedback runaway affect found in evolution.

The final wave, which mainly saw the refinement and expansion of earlier developments, emerged from the collaborative work between Egon Pearson and Jerzy Neyman in the 1930s. They introduced the concepts of "Type II" error, power of a test and confidence intervals. Jerzy Neyman in 1934 showed that stratified random sampling was in general a better method of estimation than purposive (quota) sampling. 

Today, statistical methods are applied in all fields that involve decision making, for making accurate inferences from a collated body of data and for making decisions in the face of uncertainty based on statistical methodology. The use of modern computers has expedited large-scale statistical computations and has also made possible new methods that are impractical to perform manually. Statistics continues to be an area of active research for example on the problem of how to analyze Big data. 

Statistical data

Data collection

Sampling

When full census data cannot be collected, statisticians collect sample data by developing specific experiment designs and survey samples. Statistics itself also provides tools for prediction and forecasting through statistical models. The idea of making inferences based on sampled data began around the mid-1600s in connection with estimating populations and developing precursors of life insurance. 

To use a sample as a guide to an entire population, it is important that it truly represents the overall population. Representative sampling assures that inferences and conclusions can safely extend from the sample to the population as a whole. A major problem lies in determining the extent that the sample chosen is actually representative. Statistics offers methods to estimate and correct for any bias within the sample and data collection procedures. There are also methods of experimental design for experiments that can lessen these issues at the outset of a study, strengthening its capability to discern truths about the population.

Sampling theory is part of the mathematical discipline of probability theory. Probability is used in mathematical statistics to study the sampling distributions of sample statistics and, more generally, the properties of statistical procedures. The use of any statistical method is valid when the system or population under consideration satisfies the assumptions of the method. The difference in point of view between classic probability theory and sampling theory is, roughly, that probability theory starts from the given parameters of a total population to deduce probabilities that pertain to samples. Statistical inference, however, moves in the opposite direction—inductively inferring from samples to the parameters of a larger or total population.

Experimental and observational studies

A common goal for a statistical research project is to investigate causality, and in particular to draw a conclusion on the effect of changes in the values of predictors or independent variables on dependent variables. There are two major types of causal statistical studies: experimental studies and observational studies. In both types of studies, the effect of differences of an independent variable (or variables) on the behavior of the dependent variable are observed. The difference between the two types lies in how the study is actually conducted. Each can be very effective. An experimental study involves taking measurements of the system under study, manipulating the system, and then taking additional measurements using the same procedure to determine if the manipulation has modified the values of the measurements. In contrast, an observational study does not involve experimental manipulation. Instead, data are gathered and correlations between predictors and response are investigated. While the tools of data analysis work best on data from randomized studies, they are also applied to other kinds of data—like natural experiments and observational studies  —for which a statistician would use a modified, more structured estimation method (e.g., Difference in differences estimation and instrumental variables, among many others) that produce consistent estimators.

Experiments

The basic steps of a statistical experiment are:

1. Planning the research, including finding the number of replicates of the study, using the following information: preliminary estimates regarding the size of treatment effects, alternative hypotheses, and the estimated experimental variability. Consideration of the selection of experimental subjects and the ethics of research is necessary. Statisticians recommend that experiments compare (at least) one new treatment with a standard treatment or control, to allow an unbiased estimate of the difference in treatment effects.
2. Design of experiments, using blocking to reduce the influence of confounding variables, and randomized assignment of treatments to subjects to allow unbiased estimates of treatment effects and experimental error. At this stage, the experimenters and statisticians write the experimental protocol that will guide the performance of the experiment and which specifies the primary analysis of the experimental data.
3. Performing the experiment following the experimental protocol and analyzing the data following the experimental protocol.
4. Further examining the data set in secondary analyses, to suggest new hypotheses for future study.
5. Documenting and presenting the results of the study.

Experiments on human behavior have special concerns. The famous Hawthorne study examined changes to the working environment at the Hawthorne plant of the Western Electric Company. The researchers were interested in determining whether increased illumination would increase the productivity of the assembly line workers. The researchers first measured the productivity in the plant, then modified the illumination in an area of the plant and checked if the changes in illumination affected productivity. It turned out that productivity indeed improved (under the experimental conditions). However, the study is heavily criticized today for errors in experimental procedures, specifically for the lack of a control group and blindness. The Hawthorne effect refers to finding that an outcome (in this case, worker productivity) changed due to observation itself. Those in the Hawthorne study became more productive not because the lighting was changed but because they were being observed. 

Observational study

An example of an observational study is one that explores the association between smoking and lung cancer. This type of study typically uses a survey to collect observations about the area of interest and then performs statistical analysis. In this case, the researchers would collect observations of both smokers and non-smokers, perhaps through a cohort study, and then look for the number of cases of lung cancer in each group.  A case-control study is another type of observational study in which people with and without the outcome of interest (e.g. lung cancer) are invited to participate and their exposure histories are collected.

Types of data

Various attempts have been made to produce a taxonomy of levels of measurement. The psychophysicist Stanley Smith Stevens defined nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio scales. Nominal measurements do not have meaningful rank order among values, and permit any one-to-one (injective) transformation. Ordinal measurements have imprecise differences between consecutive values, but have a meaningful order to those values, and permit any order-preserving transformation. Interval measurements have meaningful distances between measurements defined, but the zero value is arbitrary (as in the case with longitude and temperature measurements in Celsius or Fahrenheit), and permit any linear transformation. Ratio measurements have both a meaningful zero value and the distances between different measurements defined, and permit any rescaling transformation.

Because variables conforming only to nominal or ordinal measurements cannot be reasonably measured numerically, sometimes they are grouped together as categorical variables, whereas ratio and interval measurements are grouped together as quantitative variables, which can be either discrete or continuous, due to their numerical nature. Such distinctions can often be loosely correlated with data type in computer science, in that dichotomous categorical variables may be represented with the Boolean data type, polytomous categorical variables with arbitrarily assigned integers in the integral data type, and continuous variables with the real data type involving floating point computation. But the mapping of computer science data types to statistical data types depends on which categorization of the latter is being implemented.

Other categorizations have been proposed. For example, Mosteller and Tukey (1977)  distinguished grades, ranks, counted fractions, counts, amounts, and balances. Nelder (1990)  described continuous counts, continuous ratios, count ratios, and categorical modes of data. See also Chrisman (1998),  van den Berg (1991). 

The issue of whether or not it is appropriate to apply different kinds of statistical methods to data obtained from different kinds of measurement procedures is complicated by issues concerning the transformation of variables and the precise interpretation of research questions. "The relationship between the data and what they describe merely reflects the fact that certain kinds of statistical statements may have truth values which are not invariant under some transformations. Whether or not a transformation is sensible to contemplate depends on the question one is trying to answer" (Hand, 2004, p. 82). 

Statistical methods

Descriptive statistics

A descriptive statistic (in the count noun sense) is a summary statistic that quantitatively describes or summarizes features of a collection of information,  while descriptive statistics in the mass noun sense is the process of using and analyzing those statistics. Descriptive statistics is distinguished from inferential statistics (or inductive statistics), in that descriptive statistics aims to summarize a sample, rather than use the data to learn about the population that the sample of data is thought to represent.

Inferential statistics

Statistical inference is the process of using data analysis to deduce properties of an underlying probability distribution.  Inferential statistical analysis infers properties of a population, for example by testing hypotheses and deriving estimates. It is assumed that the observed data set is sampled from a larger population. Inferential statistics can be contrasted with descriptive statistics. Descriptive statistics is solely concerned with properties of the observed data, and it does not rest on the assumption that the data come from a larger population.

Terminology and theory of inferential statistics

Statistics, estimators and pivotal quantities

Consider independent identically distributed (IID) random variables with a given probability distribution: standard statistical inference and estimation theory defines a random sample as the random vector given by the column vector of these IID variables.  The population being examined is described by a probability distribution that may have unknown parameters.

A statistic is a random variable that is a function of the random sample, but not a function of unknown parameters. The probability distribution of the statistic, though, may have unknown parameters.

Consider now a function of the unknown parameter: an estimator is a statistic used to estimate such function. Commonly used estimators include sample mean, unbiased sample variance and sample covariance.

A random variable that is a function of the random sample and of the unknown parameter, but whose probability distribution does not depend on the unknown parameter is called a pivotal quantity or pivot. Widely used pivots include the z-score, the chi square statistic and Student's t-value.

Between two estimators of a given parameter, the one with lower mean squared error is said to be more efficient. Furthermore, an estimator is said to be unbiased if its expected value is equal to the true value of the unknown parameter being estimated, and asymptotically unbiased if its expected value converges at the limit to the true value of such parameter.

Other desirable properties for estimators include: UMVUE estimators that have the lowest variance for all possible values of the parameter to be estimated (this is usually an easier property to verify than efficiency) and consistent estimators which converges in probability to the true value of such parameter.

This still leaves the question of how to obtain estimators in a given situation and carry the computation, several methods have been proposed: the method of moments, the maximum likelihood method, the least squares method and the more recent method of estimating equations.

Null hypothesis and alternative hypothesis

Interpretation of statistical information can often involve the development of a null hypothesis which is usually (but not necessarily) that no relationship exists among variables or that no change occurred over time.  

The best illustration for a novice is the predicament encountered by a criminal trial. The null hypothesis, H0, asserts that the defendant is innocent, whereas the alternative hypothesis, H1, asserts that the defendant is guilty. The indictment comes because of suspicion of the guilt. The H0 (status quo) stands in opposition to H1 and is maintained unless H1 is supported by evidence "beyond a reasonable doubt". However, "failure to reject H0" in this case does not imply innocence, but merely that the evidence was insufficient to convict. So the jury does not necessarily accept H0 but fails to reject H0. While one can not "prove" a null hypothesis, one can test how close it is to being true with a power test, which tests for type II errors.

What statisticians call an alternative hypothesis is simply a hypothesis that contradicts the null hypothesis.

Error

Working from a null hypothesis, two basic forms of error are recognized:

• Type I errors where the null hypothesis is falsely rejected giving a "false positive".
• Type II errors where the null hypothesis fails to be rejected and an actual difference between populations is missed giving a "false negative".

Standard deviation refers to the extent to which individual observations in a sample differ from a central value, such as the sample or population mean, while Standard error refers to an estimate of difference between sample mean and population mean.

A statistical error is the amount by which an observation differs from its expected value, a residual is the amount an observation differs from the value the estimator of the expected value assumes on a given sample (also called prediction).

Mean squared error is used for obtaining efficient estimators, a widely used class of estimators. Root mean square error is simply the square root of mean squared error. A least squares fit: in red the points to be fitted, in blue the fitted line.

Many statistical methods seek to minimize the residual sum of squares, and these are called "methods of least squares" in contrast to Least absolute deviations. The latter gives equal weight to small and big errors, while the former gives more weight to large errors. Residual sum of squares is also differentiable, which provides a handy property for doing regression. Least squares applied to linear regression is called ordinary least squares method and least squares applied to nonlinear regression is called non-linear least squares. Also in a linear regression model the non deterministic part of the model is called error term, disturbance or more simply noise. Both linear regression and non-linear regression are addressed in polynomial least squares, which also describes the variance in a prediction of the dependent variable (y axis) as a function of the independent variable (x axis) and the deviations (errors, noise, disturbances) from the estimated (fitted) curve.

Measurement processes that generate statistical data are also subject to error. Many of these errors are classified as random (noise) or systematic (bias), but other types of errors (e.g., blunder, such as when an analyst reports incorrect units) can also be important. The presence of missing data or censoring may result in biased estimates and specific techniques have been developed to address these problems. 

Interval estimation Confidence intervals: the red line is true value for the mean in this example, the blue lines are random confidence intervals for 100 realizations.

Most studies only sample part of a population, so results don't fully represent the whole population. Any estimates obtained from the sample only approximate the population value. Confidence intervals allow statisticians to express how closely the sample estimate matches the true value in the whole population. Often they are expressed as 95% confidence intervals. Formally, a 95% confidence interval for a value is a range where, if the sampling and analysis were repeated under the same conditions (yielding a different dataset), the interval would include the true (population) value in 95% of all possible cases. This does not imply that the probability that the true value is in the confidence interval is 95%. From the frequentist perspective, such a claim does not even make sense, as the true value is not a random variable. Either the true value is or is not within the given interval. However, it is true that, before any data are sampled and given a plan for how to construct the confidence interval, the probability is 95% that the yet-to-be-calculated interval will cover the true value: at this point, the limits of the interval are yet-to-be-observed random variables. One approach that does yield an interval that can be interpreted as having a given probability of containing the true value is to use a credible interval from Bayesian statistics: this approach depends on a different way of interpreting what is meant by "probability", that is as a Bayesian probability.

In principle confidence intervals can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. An interval can be asymmetrical because it works as lower or upper bound for a parameter (left-sided interval or right sided interval), but it can also be asymmetrical because the two sided interval is built violating symmetry around the estimate. Sometimes the bounds for a confidence interval are reached asymptotically and these are used to approximate the true bounds.

Significance

Statistics rarely give a simple Yes/No type answer to the question under analysis. Interpretation often comes down to the level of statistical significance applied to the numbers and often refers to the probability of a value accurately rejecting the null hypothesis (sometimes referred to as the p-value). In this graph the black line is probability distribution for the test statistic, the critical region is the set of values to the right of the observed data point (observed value of the test statistic) and the p-value is represented by the green area.

The standard approach  is to test a null hypothesis against an alternative hypothesis. A critical region is the set of values of the estimator that leads to refuting the null hypothesis. The probability of type I error is therefore the probability that the estimator belongs to the critical region given that null hypothesis is true (statistical significance) and the probability of type II error is the probability that the estimator doesn't belong to the critical region given that the alternative hypothesis is true. The statistical power of a test is the probability that it correctly rejects the null hypothesis when the null hypothesis is false.

Referring to statistical significance does not necessarily mean that the overall result is significant in real world terms. For example, in a large study of a drug it may be shown that the drug has a statistically significant but very small beneficial effect, such that the drug is unlikely to help the patient noticeably.

Although in principle the acceptable level of statistical significance may be subject to debate, the p-value is the smallest significance level that allows the test to reject the null hypothesis. This test is logically equivalent to saying that the p-value is the probability, assuming the null hypothesis is true, of observing a result at least as extreme as the test statistic. Therefore, the smaller the p-value, the lower the probability of committing type I error.

Some problems are usually associated with this framework (See criticism of hypothesis testing):

• A difference that is highly statistically significant can still be of no practical significance, but it is possible to properly formulate tests to account for this. One response involves going beyond reporting only the significance level to include the p-value when reporting whether a hypothesis is rejected or accepted. The p-value, however, does not indicate the size or importance of the observed effect and can also seem to exaggerate the importance of minor differences in large studies. A better and increasingly common approach is to report confidence intervals. Although these are produced from the same calculations as those of hypothesis tests or p-values, they describe both the size of the effect and the uncertainty surrounding it.
• Fallacy of the transposed conditional, aka prosecutor's fallacy: criticisms arise because the hypothesis testing approach forces one hypothesis (the null hypothesis) to be favored, since what is being evaluated is the probability of the observed result given the null hypothesis and not probability of the null hypothesis given the observed result. An alternative to this approach is offered by Bayesian inference, although it requires establishing a prior probability. 
• Rejecting the null hypothesis does not automatically prove the alternative hypothesis.
• As everything in inferential statistics it relies on sample size, and therefore under fat tails p-values may be seriously mis-computed.[ clarification needed ]
Examples

Some well-known statistical tests and procedures are:

Exploratory data analysis

Exploratory data analysis (EDA) is an approach to analyzing data sets to summarize their main characteristics, often with visual methods. A statistical model can be used or not, but primarily EDA is for seeing what the data can tell us beyond the formal modeling or hypothesis testing task.

Misuse

Misuse of statistics can produce subtle, but serious errors in description and interpretation—subtle in the sense that even experienced professionals make such errors, and serious in the sense that they can lead to devastating decision errors. For instance, social policy, medical practice, and the reliability of structures like bridges all rely on the proper use of statistics.

Even when statistical techniques are correctly applied, the results can be difficult to interpret for those lacking expertise. The statistical significance of a trend in the data—which measures the extent to which a trend could be caused by random variation in the sample—may or may not agree with an intuitive sense of its significance. The set of basic statistical skills (and skepticism) that people need to deal with information in their everyday lives properly is referred to as statistical literacy.

There is a general perception that statistical knowledge is all-too-frequently intentionally misused by finding ways to interpret only the data that are favorable to the presenter.  A mistrust and misunderstanding of statistics is associated with the quotation, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics". Misuse of statistics can be both inadvertent and intentional, and the book How to Lie with Statistics  outlines a range of considerations. In an attempt to shed light on the use and misuse of statistics, reviews of statistical techniques used in particular fields are conducted (e.g. Warne, Lazo, Ramos, and Ritter (2012)). 

Ways to avoid misuse of statistics include using proper diagrams and avoiding bias.  Misuse can occur when conclusions are overgeneralized and claimed to be representative of more than they really are, often by either deliberately or unconsciously overlooking sampling bias.  Bar graphs are arguably the easiest diagrams to use and understand, and they can be made either by hand or with simple computer programs.  Unfortunately, most people do not look for bias or errors, so they are not noticed. Thus, people may often believe that something is true even if it is not well represented.  To make data gathered from statistics believable and accurate, the sample taken must be representative of the whole.  According to Huff, "The dependability of a sample can be destroyed by [bias]... allow yourself some degree of skepticism." 

To assist in the understanding of statistics Huff proposed a series of questions to be asked in each case: 

• Who says so? (Does he/she have an axe to grind?)
• How does he/she know? (Does he/she have the resources to know the facts?)
• What's missing? (Does he/she give us a complete picture?)
• Did someone change the subject? (Does he/she offer us the right answer to the wrong problem?)
• Does it make sense? (Is his/her conclusion logical and consistent with what we already know?) The confounding variable problem: X and Y may be correlated, not because there is causal relationship between them, but because both depend on a third variable Z. Z is called a confounding factor.

Misinterpretation: correlation

The concept of correlation is particularly noteworthy for the potential confusion it can cause. Statistical analysis of a data set often reveals that two variables (properties) of the population under consideration tend to vary together, as if they were connected. For example, a study of annual income that also looks at age of death might find that poor people tend to have shorter lives than affluent people. The two variables are said to be correlated; however, they may or may not be the cause of one another. The correlation phenomena could be caused by a third, previously unconsidered phenomenon, called a lurking variable or confounding variable. For this reason, there is no way to immediately infer the existence of a causal relationship between the two variables. (See Correlation does not imply causation.)

Applications

Applied statistics, theoretical statistics and mathematical statistics

Applied statistics comprises descriptive statistics and the application of inferential statistics.   Theoretical statistics concerns the logical arguments underlying justification of approaches to statistical inference, as well as encompassing mathematical statistics. Mathematical statistics includes not only the manipulation of probability distributions necessary for deriving results related to methods of estimation and inference, but also various aspects of computational statistics and the design of experiments.

Machine learning and data mining

Machine Learning models are statistical and probabilistic models that capture patterns in the data through use of computational algorithms.

Statistics in society

Statistics is applicable to a wide variety of academic disciplines, including natural and social sciences, government, and business. Statistical consultants can help organizations and companies that don't have in-house expertise relevant to their particular questions.

Statistical computing gretl, an example of an open source statistical package

The rapid and sustained increases in computing power starting from the second half of the 20th century have had a substantial impact on the practice of statistical science. Early statistical models were almost always from the class of linear models, but powerful computers, coupled with suitable numerical algorithms, caused an increased interest in nonlinear models (such as neural networks) as well as the creation of new types, such as generalized linear models and multilevel models.

Increased computing power has also led to the growing popularity of computationally intensive methods based on resampling, such as permutation tests and the bootstrap, while techniques such as Gibbs sampling have made use of Bayesian models more feasible. The computer revolution has implications for the future of statistics with new emphasis on "experimental" and "empirical" statistics. A large number of both general and special purpose statistical software are now available. Examples of available software capable of complex statistical computation include programs such as Mathematica, SAS, SPSS, and R.

Statistics applied to mathematics or the arts

Traditionally, statistics was concerned with drawing inferences using a semi-standardized methodology that was "required learning" in most sciences.[ citation needed ] This tradition has changed with use of statistics in non-inferential contexts. What was once considered a dry subject, taken in many fields as a degree-requirement, is now viewed enthusiastically.[ according to whom? ] Initially derided by some mathematical purists, it is now considered essential methodology in certain areas.

• In number theory, scatter plots of data generated by a distribution function may be transformed with familiar tools used in statistics to reveal underlying patterns, which may then lead to hypotheses.
• Methods of statistics including predictive methods in forecasting are combined with chaos theory and fractal geometry to create video works that are considered to have great beauty.[ citation needed ]
• The process art of Jackson Pollock relied on artistic experiments whereby underlying distributions in nature were artistically revealed.[ citation needed ] With the advent of computers, statistical methods were applied to formalize such distribution-driven natural processes to make and analyze moving video art.[ citation needed ]
• Methods of statistics may be used predicatively in performance art, as in a card trick based on a Markov process that only works some of the time, the occasion of which can be predicted using statistical methodology.
• Statistics can be used to predicatively create art, as in the statistical or stochastic music invented by Iannis Xenakis, where the music is performance-specific. Though this type of artistry does not always come out as expected, it does behave in ways that are predictable and tunable using statistics.

Specialized disciplines

Statistical techniques are used in a wide range of types of scientific and social research, including: biostatistics, computational biology, computational sociology, network biology, social science, sociology and social research. Some fields of inquiry use applied statistics so extensively that they have specialized terminology. These disciplines include:

In addition, there are particular types of statistical analysis that have also developed their own specialised terminology and methodology:

Statistics form a key basis tool in business and manufacturing as well. It is used to understand measurement systems variability, control processes (as in statistical process control or SPC), for summarizing data, and to make data-driven decisions. In these roles, it is a key tool, and perhaps the only reliable tool.

Foundations and major areas of statistics

Related Research Articles

Analysis of variance (ANOVA) is a collection of statistical models and their associated estimation procedures used to analyze the differences among group means in a sample. ANOVA was developed by statistician and evolutionary biologist Ronald Fisher. The ANOVA is based on the law of total variance, where the observed variance in a particular variable is partitioned into components attributable to different sources of variation. In its simplest form, ANOVA provides a statistical test of whether two or more population means are equal, and therefore generalizes the t-test beyond two means.

Biostatistics are the development and application of statistical methods to a wide range of topics in biology. It encompasses the design of biological experiments, the collection and analysis of data from those experiments and the interpretation of the results.

Statistical inference is the process of using data analysis to deduce properties of an underlying probability distribution. Inferential statistical analysis infers properties of a population, for example by testing hypotheses and deriving estimates. It is assumed that the observed data set is sampled from a larger population.

The theory of statistics provides a basis for the whole range of techniques, in both study design and data analysis, that are used within applications of statistics. The theory covers approaches to statistical-decision problems and to statistical inference, and the actions and deductions that satisfy the basic principles stated for these different approaches. Within a given approach, statistical theory gives ways of comparing statistical procedures; it can find a best possible procedure within a given context for given statistical problems, or can provide guidance on the choice between alternative procedures.

Statistics is a field of inquiry that studies the collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data. It is applicable to a wide variety of academic disciplines, from the physical and social sciences to the humanities; it is also used and misused for making informed decisions in all areas of business and government.

The power of a binary hypothesis test is the probability that the test rejects the null hypothesis (H0) when a specific alternative hypothesis (H1) is true. The statistical power ranges from 0 to 1, and as statistical power increases, the probability of making a type II error (wrongly failing to reject the null hypothesis) decreases. For a type II error probability of β, the corresponding statistical power is 1 − β. For example, if experiment 1 has a statistical power of 0.7, and experiment 2 has a statistical power of 0.95, then there is a stronger probability that experiment 1 had a type II error than experiment 2, and experiment 2 is more reliable than experiment 1 due to the reduction in probability of a type II error. It can be equivalently thought of as the probability of accepting the alternative hypothesis (H1) when it is true—that is, the ability of a test to detect a specific effect, if that specific effect actually exists. That is,

In statistics, a confidence interval (CI) is a type of interval estimate, computed from the statistics of the observed data, that might contain the true value of an unknown population parameter. The interval has an associated confidence level, or coverage that, loosely speaking, quantifies the level of confidence that the deterministic parameter is captured by the interval. More strictly speaking, the confidence level represents the frequency of possible confidence intervals that contain the true value of the unknown population parameter. In other words, if confidence intervals are constructed using a given confidence level from an infinite number of independent sample statistics, the proportion of those intervals that contain the true value of the parameter will be equal to the confidence level.

In statistical hypothesis testing, the p-value or probability value is the probability of obtaining test results at least as extreme as the results actually observed during the test, assuming that the null hypothesis is correct. The use of p-values in statistical hypothesis testing is common in many fields of research such as physics, economics, finance, political science, psychology, biology, criminal justice, criminology, and sociology. The misuse of p-values is a controversial topic in metascience. Mathematical statistics is the application of probability theory, a branch of mathematics, to statistics, as opposed to techniques for collecting statistical data. Specific mathematical techniques which are used for this include mathematical analysis, linear algebra, stochastic analysis, differential equations, and measure theory.

In statistics, resampling is any of a variety of methods for doing one of the following:

1. Estimating the precision of sample statistics by using subsets of available data (jackknifing) or drawing randomly with replacement from a set of data points (bootstrapping)
2. Exchanging labels on data points when performing significance tests
3. Validating models by using random subsets In statistics, bootstrapping is any test or metric that relies on random sampling with replacement. Bootstrapping allows assigning measures of accuracy to sample estimates. This technique allows estimation of the sampling distribution of almost any statistic using random sampling methods. Generally, it falls in the broader class of resampling methods. In statistical hypothesis testing, the null distribution is the probability distribution of the test statistic when the null hypothesis is true. For example, in an F-test, the null distribution is an F-distribution. Null distribution is a tool scientists often use when conducting experiments. The null distribution is the distribution of two sets of data under a null hypothesis. If the results of the two sets of data are not outside the parameters of the expected results, then the null hypothesis is said to be true. In statistics, the multiple comparisons, multiplicity or multiple testing problem occurs when one considers a set of statistical inferences simultaneously or infers a subset of parameters selected based on the observed values. In certain fields it is known as the look-elsewhere effect.

In statistics, asymptotic theory, or large sample theory, is a framework for assessing properties of estimators and statistical tests. Within this framework, it is typically assumed that the sample size n grows indefinitely; the properties of estimators and tests are then evaluated in the limit as n → ∞. In practice, a limit evaluation is treated as being approximately valid for large finite sample sizes, as well.

Rodger's method is a statistical procedure for examining research data post hoc following an 'omnibus' analysis. The various components of this methodology were fully worked out by R. S. Rodger in the 1960s and 70s, and seven of his articles about it were published in the British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology between 1967 and 1978.

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