Limitation of Statistics

Limitation of Statistics

Regardless of the usefulness of statics in various fields, the impression of it always provides solutions to problems should not be carried. Unless the data is critically interpreted there is a high chance of drawing the wrong conclusions hence it is necessary to know the limitations. The following are the limitation of statistics:

1.  Qualitative aspects are excluded.

Statistical methods are not able to study phenomena that cannot be expressed, or measured in quantitative terms. These include capturing the perspectives and lived experiences of certain groups of people and the dynamic realities such as the emotional impact of racial discrimination. There is a certain danger to relying on only quantitative data and ignoring qualitative data.

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Although there has been a heavy bias toward quantitative methods and reporting in published literature, many social science researchers have come to realize the severe limitations of depending primarily on quantitative methodology for understanding human behavior and patterns.

 2. It does not deal with discrete items.

Statistics by nature do not, cannot, and will never be able to take into account individual cases that aren’t placed about any other item. It renders them invisible by subjecting them to the autocracy of the masses, though individual cases may be extremely important and impactful.

3. It does not depict the entire story of a phenomenon:

Most phenomena are affected by several factors, not all of which can be expressed quantitatively. Hence, it’s not possible to study a problem statistically in all its manifestations and arrive at the correct conclusions. Many phenomena need to be examined in the light of many things for example conditions of life, education, religion, philosophy, administration, history, and other factors that cannot be studied statistically. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful that particular aspects expressed numerically do not capture the whole reality of a phenomenon, and any conclusions drawn from such numbers by default exclude and procedurally ignore vital variables, particularly dynamic ones, that directly impact a phenomenon.

4. It is liable to be misused:

Statistics deals with figures, which can easily be misinterpreted by untrained people or misused by unprincipled persons. Either way, it’s very likely to be misused in most cases. According to statistician and economist Wilford I. King, “one of the shortcomings of statistics is that they do not bear on their face the label of their quality.” He also wrote, “Statistics are like the clay of which you can make a ‘God’ or a ‘Devil’ as you please,” and also, “the science of statistics is a useful servant but only of great value to those who understand its proper use.” Benjamin Disraeli famously said (and Mark Twain popularized), “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Incidentally, this quote, projected onto the wall via an overhead projector, was the way that my Injury Epidemiology professor in grad school introduced her class for the semester in 1996.

5. Its laws are not exact:

There are two fundamental laws of statics: The law of statistical regularity and the law of inertia of large numbers. They are both probabilistic in nature and not deterministic like the laws of the physical and natural sciences. Hence, the conclusions based on these laws won’t be exactly like those that are based on the laws of physics or chemistry. When relying on statistical analysis, we can talk only in terms of approximation and probability but not in terms of certainty.

6. Its results are true only on average:

Statistics largely deals with averages and these averages may be made up of individual items radically different from each other.

Statistical results are not true and do not apply to individual cases, even though they’re derived as the average result of all the individuals forming the group. If the average grade of two sections of students is the same, it doesn’t mean that all the students in section A got the same marks as all the students in section B. There may be large variations between the two. If there are large enough numbers, the numbers can be further clarified by adjusting for certain variables, but in the end, the statistical result is still only useful for general appraisal, done cautiously rather than definitively, and not for any specific unit or event.

7. Statistical results are not always beyond doubt:


“Statistics deals only with measurable aspects of things and therefore, can seldom give the complete solution to the problem. They provide a basis for judgments but not the whole judgment.” —Prof. L.R. Connor

Although we use many laws and formulae in statistics but still the results achieved are not final and conclusive. As they are unable to give a complete solution to a problem, the result must be taken and used with much wisdom.

8. Too Many methods to study problems:

In this subject, we use so many methods to find a single result. Variation can be found by quartile deviation, mean deviation or standard deviations and results vary in each case

It must not be assumed that statistics is the only method to use in research, neither should this method of considering the best attack for the problem.

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