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262S11+Monmonier+_22Lying+with+Maps_22+2005

262S11+Monmonier+_22Lying+with+Maps_22+2005 - Statistical...

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Statistical Science 2005, Vol. 20, No. 3, 215–222 DOI 10.1214/088342305000000241 © Institute of Mathematical Statistics, 2005 Lying with Maps Mark Monmonier Abstract. Darrell Huff’s How to Lie with Statistics was the inspiration for How to Lie with Maps , in which the author showed that geometric distortion and graphic generalization of data are unavoidable elements of cartographic representation. New examples of how ill-conceived or deliberately contrived statistical maps can greatly distort geographic reality demonstrate that lying with maps is a special case of lying with statistics. Issues addressed include the effects of map scale on geometry and feature selection, the importance of using a symbolization metaphor appropriate to the data and the power of data classification to either reveal meaningful spatial trends or promote misleading interpretations. Key words and phrases: Classification, deception, generalization, maps, statistical graphics. 1. INTRODUCTION I never met Darrell Huff, but his insightful little book How to Lie with Statistics was a favorite long before I appropriated the first four words of its title for How to Lie with Maps , published in 1991. I don’t recall when I first became aware of Huff’s book—the oldest of two copies in my library is the 25th printing—but its title was irresistible. Equally intriguing were Huff’s straightforward examples, all served up in good humor, of how an unscrupulous or naive statistician could ma- nipulate numbers and graphs to spin a questionable if not downright misleading interpretation of a correla- tion or time series. In the mid 1980s, when I taught a course titled Information Graphics, How to Lie with Statistics provided an engaging supplemental reading. Huff’s approach was as much an inspiration as his title. I already had the kernel of How to Lie with Maps in my comparatively obscure Maps, Distortion, and Meaning , published in 1977 by the Association of American Geographers as a “Resource Paper” for the Commission on College Geography. Information the- ory and communication models provided a conceptual framework for an illustrated excursion into the roles of map scale, projection, symbolization, and classification Mark Monmonier is Distinguished Professor of Ge- ography, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Pub- lic Affairs, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244-1020, USA (e-mail: [email protected] edu). in cartographic generalizations of geographic data— hardly light material. Written with upper-division col- lege students in mind, Maps, Distortion, and Mean- ing supplemented its 51 letter-size pages of academic prose and real-world examples with a bibliography list- ing 92 books and articles. By contrast, the first edition of How to Lie with Maps gleefully indulged in con- trived Huffian examples and blithely ignored the schol- arly record—a deficiency rectified five years later when the University of Chicago Press commissioned an ex- panded edition that added 72 relevant references, chap- ters on multimedia and national mapping programs, and four pages of color illustrations.
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