Misleading Graphs

In statistics, it is quite common for data to be misleading. It is very easy to reach a wrong conclusion by inputting incorrect information or alteration in data. Here we will see how one can recognize and rectify misleading graphs.

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Misleading Graphs Misleading Graphs

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Contents
Table of contents

    What is a Misleading graph?

    Statistical graphs are considered to be a powerful tool to express a large amount of information in a precise manner. But in some cases, it might deceive the audience.

    Misleading graphs are the graphs that depict incorrect conclusions by distorting the given statistical data. They are also called distorted graphs. Misleading graphs can be constructed either intentionally or unintentionally.

    Misleading graphs are often used to either mislead or to pursue the audience. For example, a salesperson uses misleading graphs to attract more buyers by showing more sales.

    So a graph can be misleading if the scaling is too big or too small. Or when some of the data are missing in the graph.

    Misleading graph Examples

    Let's take a look at how this graph looks by considering some examples.

    Here the same data is considered to construct both graphs. But because of different Y-axis scaling selection, the output of both the graphs is different. This graph is considered a misleading graph, as we cannot interpret proper information from it.

    Misleading graph, same data misleading graph, StudySmarterMisleading graph for same data, datapine.com

    In this graph, the scaling range taken is very large as compared to the data. So we cannot accurately get information just by observing the graph.

    Misleading graphs, Bad scaling misleading graph, StudySmarterMisleading graph with bad scaling, venngage.com

    Ways to Construct Misleading Graph

    Here are some of the ways to make a graph misleading.

    • Scale and Axis alteration

    Graphs can be made misleading with the help of axis and scaling. If there is improper or no scaling, or there is some manipulation in axes, then it can create misleading graphs.

    • 3D Graphs

    3D graphs give the best visual representation, but they can be misleading at times. It creates confusion and is difficult to understand. So proper conclusions cannot be given and can lead to misleading graphs.

    • Data usage

    Another way to mislead a graph is through the use of information. If some needed information is omitted or unnecessary data are taken into consideration, then that graph can be misleading.

    • Size

    The Interval size of both the axes should be equally distributed and properly considered based on the respected data.

    • Misleading Pictographs

    Pictographs are fun to create and are a nice way to represent some information. They can be misleading if they are not constructed in the proper manner with necessary information and scaling.

    Identifying Misleading graphs

    There are a few important things to keep in mind when looking through graphs and to recognize misleading graphs.

    1. Title of the graph and labels of the axes and chart should be properly mentioned.

    2. Scaling should start from zero and it should be equally distributed without breakdown.

    3. For pictographs, proper key and symbol size is most important.

    • Change the scaling of the graph if it does not start from 0.
    • If the intervals on both axes are not even, construct a new graph with even intervals.
    • If more or less data is taken into consideration for the graph, rectify it by using the necessary given information
    • If pictographs are misleading, change the key and shapes used in the graph.

    Solved misleading graphs examples

    Let us understand to identify and solve misleading graphs

    Why is this line graph a misleading graph? And how should it be rectified?

    Misleading graph, Misleading line graph, StudySmarterMisleading line graph, slideplayer.com

    Solution:

    The Y-axis interval is not even. Due to this, the biggest jump looks in between 1 and 2. Although it should be between 3 and 4, which makes it misleading.

    Also, there are no labels on both axes, which does not give any idea regarding data.

    So to make it correct the label should be mentioned on the axes and the interval on the Y-axis should be distributed evenly.

    The following graphs represent the change in house prices in a city within 2 years. Identity the misleading graph and accurate graph. And give the conclusion from the graph.

    Misleading graph, Misleading same data bar graph, StudySmarterMisleading graphs with same data, quizlet.com

    Solution: By comparing graph 1 and graph 2, we see that there is a huge difference in price change in both graphs. We cannot see which information is accurate just from the data.

    So let's first identify the misleading graph. Graph 1 does not have a baseline. That means this graph does not start with 0, but with another high interval. But graph 2 does have a baseline. So graph 1 is a misleading graph and graph 2 is the accurate graph for the provided data.

    Using graph 2, we can conclude that the price changes from the year 1998 to 1999 are not that high.

    Below is the information about the employment rate from the year 2010 to 2021.

    Year201020112012201320142015201620172018201920202021
    Rate Percent77.5913.51719232119.51411.58

    A line graph has been constructed based on the provided data. Identify if the construction of the graph is correct or not? If not then identify the errors and construct an accurate graph for the given data. And make a conclusion based on the correct graph.

    Misleading graph, Misleading line graph, StudySmarterGraph A: missing information graph, universiteitleiden.nl

    Solution: As per the given data, the employment rate is from the year 2010 to 2021. But graph A is drawn for the year 2012 to 2016. Hence this graph is a misleading graph, as not all the data is used to construct it.

    We shall make a new graph using all the given information.

    Misleading graph, Correct line graph, StudySmarterGraph B: Correct graph for given data, universiteitleiden.nl

    From graph B we can say that there was an increase in the employment rate from the year 2010 to 2016, But after the year 2016, there is a constant drop in the employment rate. We can conclude that graph A was created to mislead people, as it shows only the increment rate in employment.

    Misleading Graphs - Key takeaways

    • Misleading graphs are the graphs that depict incorrect conclusions by distorting the given statistical data.
    • Misleading graphs are often used to either mislead or to pursue the audience.
    • Some of the ways to mislead a graph are - Scale and Axis alteration, 3D Graphs, Data Usage, Size, Misleading Pictographs.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Misleading Graphs

    How can graphs be misleading? 

    There are many ways for a graph to be misleading. Like scale too big or too small, not proper interval size, missing data, the wrong type of graph.

    What is a misleading graph?

    Misleading graphs are the graphs that depict incorrect conclusions by distorting the given statistical data.

    What makes a graph misleading in statistics?

    A graph that gives improper information or one cannot understand it makes the graph misleading.

    Where can I find misleading graphs?

     Misleading graphs can be found anywhere, where one wants to use it for their benefit.

    How to make a misleading graph?

    A misleading graph can be created by the alteration of scaling, by missing data, or by omitting baseline.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Identify the way to create misleading graphs.

    Can a misleading graph be used to present correct information?

    "If the intervals on both axes are not even, construct a new graph with even intervals."Can the about statement be used to rectify a misleading graph?

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