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Archive of posts filed under the Statistical graphics category.

Visualizing sampling error and dynamic graphics

Robert Grant writes: What do you think of this visualisation from the NYT [in an article by Neil Irwin and Kevin Quealy but I'm not sure if they're the designers of the visualization]? I’m pretty impressed as a method of showing sampling error to a general audience! I agree. P.S. In related news, Antony Unwin […]

Avoiding false parallelism in a graph

“False parallelism”—feel free to come up with a better term here—is when a graph has repeating elements that do not correspond to repeating structure in the underlying topic being graphed. An example appears in the above graphs from Dan Kahan. The content of the graphs is fine (and, more generally, I think he’s making an […]

What’s the algorithm, Kenneth?

I can’t figure out what’s the deal with the bars for Corners. The bar labeled “7″ is much less than 7 times the bar labeled “1.” At first I was guessing that maybe they’re not counting the numbered part in the bar width (which would be a pretty weird choice) but that wouldn’t work for […]

Average predictive comparisons in R: David Chudzicki writes a package!

Here it is: An R Package for Understanding Arbitrary Complex Models As complex models become widely used, it’s more important than ever to have ways of understanding them. Even when a model is built primarily for prediction (rather than primarily as an aid to understanding), we still need to know what it’s telling us. For […]

Can we make better graphs of global temperature history?

Chris Gittins sends along this post by Gavin Schmidt, who writes: Some editors at Wikipedia have made an attempt to produce a complete record for the Phanerozoic: But these collations are imperfect in many ways. On the last figure the time axis is a rather confusing mix of linear segments and logarithmic scaling, there is […]

Small multiples of lineplots > maps (ok, not always, but yes in this case)

Kaiser Fung shares this graph from Ritchie King: Kaiser writes: What they did right: – Did not put the data on a map – Ordered the countries by the most recent data point rather than alphabetically – Scale labels are found only on outer edge of the chart area, rather than one set per panel […]

Understanding Simpson’s paradox using a graph

Joshua Vogelstein pointed me to this post by Michael Nielsen on how to teach Simpson’s paradox. I don’t know if Nielsen (and others) are aware that people have developed some snappy graphical methods for displaying Simpson’s paradox (and, more generally, aggregation issues). We do some this in our Red State Blue State book, but before […]

How literature is like statistical reasoning: Kosara on stories. Gelman and Basbøll on stories.

In “Story: A Definition,” visual analysis researcher Robert Kosara writes: A story ties facts together. There is a reason why this particular collection of facts is in this story, and the story gives you that reason. provides a narrative path through those facts. In other words, it guides the viewer/reader through the world, rather than just throwing […]

Am I too negative?

For background, you can start by reading my recent article, Is It Possible to Be an Ethicist Without Being Mean to People? and then a blog post, Quality over Quantity, by John Cook, who writes: At one point [Ed] Tufte spoke more generally and more personally about pursuing quality over quantity. He said most papers […]

A statistical graphics course and statistical graphics advice

Dean Eckles writes: Some of my coworkers at Facebook and I have worked with Udacity to create an online course on exploratory data analysis, including using data visualizations in R as part of EDA. The course has now launched at so anyone can take it for free. And Kaiser Fung has reviewed it. So definitely feel free […]