*t*-test if a student can not read a newspaper article and determine that hypothesis testing has been misused?”

^{1, p. 78}. Utts

^{1}suggests seven core statistical ideas that could be described as ‘useful life skills’, which I summarized as

^{2}:

- When causal relationships can and cannot be inferred, including the difference between observational studies and randomized experiments;
- The difference between statistical significance and practical importance, especially when using large sample sizes;
- The difference between finding ‘no effect’ and finding no statistically significant effect, especially when sample sizes are small;
- Sources of bias in surveys and experiments, such as poor wording of questions, volunteer response, and socially desirable answers;
- The idea that coincidences and seemingly very improbable events are not uncommon because there are so many possibilities (to use a classic example, although most people would consider it an unbelievable coincidence/unlikely event to find two people in a group of 30 that share the same birthday, the probability is actually .7, which is fairly high);
- ‘Confusion of the inverse’ in which a conditional probability in one direction is confused with the conditional probability in the other direction (for example, the prosecutor’s fallacy) ;
- Understanding that variability is natural, and that ‘normal’ is not the same as ‘average’ (for example, the average male height in the UK is 175cm; although a man of 190cm is, therefore, well above average, his height is within the normal range of male heights).

^{2}, I suggest that we should try, if nothing else, to get students to leave their degree programs with these core skills. We could also think about using real world examples (not necessarily from within our own discipline) to teach students how to apply these skills. This could have several benefits: (1) it might make the class more interesting; (2) it helps students to apply knowledge beyond the realm of their major subject; and (3) it will undermine the power that newspapers and the media in general has to sensationalize research findings, spread misinformation, and encourage lazy thinking. So, my main point is that, as teachers, we could think about these things when teaching, and students might take comfort in the fact that the stats classes they endured might have given them a useful shield to fend off the haddock of misinformation with which the media slaps their faces every day.

### References

- Utts J. What Educated Citizens Should Know About Statistics and Probability
*The American Statistician*2003;57(2):74-79 - Field AP. Teaching Statistics. In: Upton D, Trapp A, editors.
*Teaching Psychology in Higher Education*. Chichester, UK:: Wiley-Blackwell., 2010.