Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Statistics and Lies

Now in public housing in Kensington, Barron is longing to return to the side of the city he had always called home.

''I've always lived south of the Yarra, this is the first time I've lived this side of town. I still go back over that way regularly each week because I've still got ties over there. I do voluntary work in Mentone twice a week … but it takes me three or four hours getting there.''

I am not sure what method of transport this person uses. By public transport it may be three hours travelling to Mentone and back, but three to four hours to get to Mentone from Kensington?

Perhaps he should have also added that he used to live a long way south of the Yarra, which is quite different to living south of the Yarra.

I suppose I am at times guilty of exaggeration but really, we do ourselves a disservice when we want people to take what we are saying seriously. Ask anyone in a call centre or someone who deals in customer service about exaggeration by customers. If it is a time based complaint, you can usually halve the waiting time for the truth. I reckon Andy, Cazzie and Fen could tell us something about this.

Then there is the reverse minimising exaggeration. The Bone Doctor tells me that when doctors ask how much alcohol a patient drinks, the doctor then doubles the figure given by the patient to get an accurate picture. Ditto smoking.

When I was a teenager, our household received a television ratings booklet. I took on the task of filling it in. It was simple enough. You marked off what you watched. I marked off what I would have watched if I was home and what I would have watched if I had control of the television. My apologies if you think I am to blame for some crook tele in the seventies.

I suppose we use exaggerations or minimisations to reinforce or negate the impact of events. The problem is that often the person or whatever we are relating to knows the truth and so therefore what we have said is judged by them as worthless now, and in the future.

In the tv ratings booklet, I think I might have marked that I watched two programs at the same time. I liked them both. Being able to view two programs that were on at the same time was impossible in the seventies. My ratings booklet was probably thrown in the bin. And there, you do actually know someone who has rated television for the collectors of such statistics.


  1. However much chocolate I admit to eating.... triple it!

  2. Anonymous12:40 pm

    Andrew, 3-4 hours to get to a voluntary job. There's determination!

    Hope you got e-mail. It was to alert you of my new blog.



  3. re the quack halving/doubling the amount claimed: Old Woody Allen joke -
    woman at marriage therapy complains husband wants s*x 'all the time'.

    Therapist: how often?
    A: Twice every week.

    Husband complains to therapist they never have s*x.
    Therapist: How infrequent?
    A: Only twice in a week.

    going off to beautyhunter now
    Ciao dahlings

  4. This concerns me greatly - I usually give the doc a 'peak figure' for alcohol and cigarette consumption, not an average but an 'at my worst' figure. If the bastard then doubles that he's probably amazed I'm still alive.

    I use a similar theory for dating sites (not that I use those anymore *cough*) where everyone else marks themselves up, I mark myself down so that when I do finally score some action, err I mean when someone does take me out for dinner and dancing, they're pleasantly surprised.

    Seems to work alright so far.

  5. Psst KN, I won't tell anyone.

    Just checked DJ. Yep, and thanks.

    Mars and Venus MS.

    I think you are unusual Mutant. I lie, but I agree with you about the pick up sites. Nothing worse than thinking you are getting an Adonis and he turns out to be a dog. Not that I mind a dog or a doggie boi even, but I do like a vaguely accurate description, including age being within five years or so. Funny though, most sites you sign up to, your age does not change. Mine at a couple of sites might a bit out now.

  6. Oh, I'm always honest, so from now on I'm gonna start downsizing things! No wonder the doc never believes me when I tell him I don't drink!

    And yes, some of the customers I get exaggerate beyond belief. I think they think we're dumb enough to believe them!

  7. Fen, I was actually thinking about you when I wrote about exaggeration. I am sure you get plenty of it.


Democracy is all very well, but why give it to the people? - Audrey Forbes-Hamilton.