Ben Goldacre has a stab at showing why raw data associations yield flawed conclusions

Any set of figures needs adjusting before it can be usefully reported
Tricky concept ahoy – so cue some nerdy tables
Ben Goldacre

Fox News was excited: “Unplanned children develop more slowly, study finds.” The Telegraph was equally shrill in its headline (“IVF children have bigger vocabulary than unplanned children”). And the British Medical Journal press release drove it all: “Children born after an unwanted pregnancy are slower to develop.”

The last two, at least, made a good effort to explain that this effect disappeared when the researchers accounted for social and demographic factors. But was there ever any point in reporting the raw finding, from before this correction was made?

I will now demonstrate, with a nerdy table illustration, how you correct for things such as social and demographic factors. You’ll have to pay attention, because this is a tricky concept; but at the end, when the mystery is gone, you will see why reporting the unadjusted figures as the finding, especially in a headline, is silly and wrong. (Guardian)

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