From media, personal experience, or the Internet, identify an example of each of the following sources of distortion (faulty causal and/or statistical inference) for the following: A study with...

From media, personal experience, or the Internet, identify an example of each of the following sources of distortion (faulty causal and/or statistical inference) for the following:

  1. A study with questionable sponsorship or motives
  2. Reliance on insufficient evidence/hasty generalization
  3. Unbalanced or biased presentation
  4. Unexamined assumptions
  5. Faulty causal reasoning

Asked on by kanhimack

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

For many of these potential sources of distortion, the distortion is in the eye of the beholder.  Reasoning may appear faulty, assumptions unexamined, and generalizations hasty to one person while another person thinks that everything has been done properly.  In many cases, our opinions about these distortions will depend on whether we agree with the conclusions drawn.

Of these, only #1 seems to be something that is objectively determinable.  Everyone can agree when a study has been sponsored by a group or individual that has something to gain from that report.  An example of this can be found in this article from the New York Times.  There, we see that the trucking industry commissioned a study that found that longer trucks, which the industry wants legalized, would be safer than the trucks that are now used.  This may or may not be true, but the study is clearly sponsored by a group that benefits from the conclusions in the study.

The rest of the sources of distortion are much less objectively identifiable.  For example, a person who is in favor of gun control might say that this article from the National Review (a conservative publication) suffers from all of the faults mentioned.  It relies on one piece of evidence, that Nazi Germany had gun control laws, to argue that such laws are a bad thing.  It assumes that the gun control laws were part of the cause of the Holocaust without really examining this assumption or presenting evidence that might tend to balance the discussion.  You could use this as an example of the other sources of distortion, though there are people who would disagree with that characterization of the argument.

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