“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Mark Twain popularized that quote over a century ago. It couldn’t be more true now.

Pundits constantly bombard investors with wild economic and stock market claims backed with charts and data. Much of it is bunk. But it isn’t hard to see through it if you're armed with a few simple tricks.

Those tricks come from one of my all-time favorite books: Darrell Huff’s 1954 classic, How to Lie With Statistics. It’s humorous, illustrated and non-academic—a great guide about how people torture data to force them to fit their argument. Here are its five most useful nuggets.

Surveys are only as good as their representativeness. But most have baked-in biases and aren’t truly representative. Political polls, wrong in so many recent elections, prove this. So do opinion surveys of all stripes. As Huff writes: “No conclusion that ‘sixty-seven percent of the American people are against’ something should be read without the lingering question, sixty-seven percent of which American people?”

...

More in category

What makes a great obituary? Embracing the beauty of the truth What makes a great obituary? Embracing the beauty of the truth
September 21, 2019NBC News
Justice Neil Gorsuch claims Supreme Court not split on party lines Justice Neil Gorsuch claims Supreme Court not split on party lines
September 21, 2019CBS
"Queer Eye" star reveals he's HIV positive
September 21, 2019CBS
Connecticut reports its first death from Eastern equine encephalitis in years as the outbreak grows Connecticut reports its first death from Eastern equine encephalitis in years as the outbreak grows
September 22, 2019CNN
Police search for suspect after 6 people shot in Indianapolis Police search for suspect after 6 people shot in Indianapolis
September 21, 2019CNN
Hedge fund Elliott could raise $5 billion in new funding: FT Hedge fund Elliott could raise $5 billion in new funding: FT
September 21, 2019Reuters
Big companies commit to slash emissions ahead of U.N. climate summit Big companies commit to slash emissions ahead of U.N. climate summit
September 21, 2019Reuters
It's Banned Books Week. Here are the 11 most challenged books last year It's Banned Books Week. Here are the 11 most challenged books last year
September 21, 2019CNN
Sure, black people can be racist, too Sure, black people can be racist, too
September 21, 2019CNN
Thousands attend mostly peaceful Area 51 events in Nevada Thousands attend mostly peaceful Area 51 events in Nevada
September 21, 2019CBS
Opinion: Growing divide shows 'electability' question isn't going anywhere Opinion: Growing divide shows 'electability' question isn't going anywhere
September 21, 2019CNN
Winners and losers from Week 4 in college football, led by Central Florida and Auburn Winners and losers from Week 4 in college football, led by Central Florida and Auburn
September 21, 2019USA Today
Elizabeth Warren leads Iowa Poll for the first time, besting Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren leads Iowa Poll for the first time, besting Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders
September 21, 2019USA Today
Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!'
September 21, 2019The Hill
'Rubbish': Neil Gorsuch says the Supreme Court is not split along partisan lines 'Rubbish': Neil Gorsuch says the Supreme Court is not split along partisan lines
September 21, 2019Business Insider
2020 Democratic candidates embrace the selfie line 2020 Democratic candidates embrace the selfie line
September 21, 2019CBS
Warren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll Warren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll
September 21, 2019The Hill
Shooting at South Carolina bar leaves 2 dead, 8 injured Shooting at South Carolina bar leaves 2 dead, 8 injured
September 21, 2019CBS
Pittsburgh hands No. 16 Central Florida its first regular season loss since 2016 Pittsburgh hands No. 16 Central Florida its first regular season loss since 2016
September 21, 2019USA Today
Bolton replacement inherits tough challenges — including Trump Bolton replacement inherits tough challenges — including Trump
September 21, 2019The Hill
Iran threatens action after Trump commits troops Iran threatens action after Trump commits troops
September 21, 2019Reuters