## Tag: Statistical Thinking

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A quantile definition for skewness

Skewness is a measure of the asymmetry of a univariate distribution. I have previously shown how to compute the skewness for data distributions in SAS. The previous article computes Pearson's definition of skewness, which is based on the standardized third central moment of the data. Moment-based statistics are sensitive to

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Winsorization: The good, the bad, and the ugly

On discussion forums, I often see questions that ask how to Winsorize variables in SAS. For example, here are some typical questions from the SAS Support Community: I want an efficient way of replacing (upper) extreme values with (95th) percentile. I have a data set with around 600 variables and

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Goodness-of-fit tests: A cautionary tale for large and small samples

In the classic textbook by Johnson and Wichern (Applied Multivariate Statistical Analysis, Third Edition, 1992, p. 164), it says: All measures of goodness-of-fit suffer the same serious drawback. When the sample size is small, only the most aberrant behaviors will be identified as lack of fit. On the other hand,

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Sampling variation in small random samples

Somewhere in my past I encountered a panel of histograms for small random samples of normal data. I can't remember the source, but it might have been from John Tukey or William Cleveland. The point of the panel was to emphasize that (because of sampling variation) a small random sample

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What is loess regression?

Loess regression is a nonparametric technique that uses local weighted regression to fit a smooth curve through points in a scatter plot. Loess curves are can reveal trends and cycles in data that might be difficult to model with a parametric curve. Loess regression is one of several algorithms in

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Coverage probability of confidence intervals: A simulation approach

The article uses the SAS DATA step and Base SAS procedures to estimate the coverage probability of the confidence interval for the mean of normally distributed data. This discussion is based on Section 5.2 (p. 74–77) of Simulating Data with SAS. What is a confidence interval? Recall that a confidence

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Weighted percentiles

Many univariate descriptive statistics are intuitive. However, weighted statistic are less intuitive. A weight variable changes the computation of a statistic by giving more weight to some observations than to others. This article shows how to compute and visualize weighted percentiles, also known as a weighted quantiles, as computed by

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In praise of simple graphics

'Tis a gift to be simple. -- Shaker hymn In June 2015 I published a short article for Significance, a magazine that features statistical and data-related articles that are of general interest to a wide a range of scientists. The title of my article is "In Praise of Simple Graphics."

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I saw an interesting mathematical result in Wired magazine. The original article was about mathematical research into prime numbers, but the article included the following tantalizing fact: If Alice tosses a [fair]coin until she sees a head followed by a tail, and Bob tosses a coin until he sees two

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Monte Carlo estimates of pi and an important statistical lesson

Today is March 14th, which is annually celebrated as Pi Day. Today's date, written as 3/14/16, represents the best five-digit approximation of pi. On Pi Day, many people blog about how to approximate pi. This article uses a Monte Carlo simulation to estimate pi, in spite of the fact that

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Why doesn't PROC UNIVARIATE support certain common distributions?

A SAS customer asked: Why isn't the chi-square distribution supported in PROC UNIVARIATE? That is an excellent question. I remember asking a similar question when I first started learning SAS. In addition to the chi-square distribution, I wondered why the UNIVARIATE procedure does not support the F distribution. These are

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Guessing games, ensemble averages, and the wisdom of the crowd

How much does this big pumpkin weigh? One of the cafeterias at SAS invited patrons to post their guesses on an internal social network at SAS. There was no prize for the correct guess; it was just a fun Halloween-week activity. I recognized this as an opportunity to apply the

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Models and simulation for 2x2 contingency tables

When modeling and simulating data, it is important to be able to articulate the real-life statistical process that generates the data. Suppose a friend says to you, "I want to simulate two random correlated variables, X and Y." Usually this means that he wants data generated from a multivariate distribution,

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Balls and urns Part 2: Multi-colored balls

In a previous post I described how to simulate random samples from an urn that contains colored balls. The previous article described the case where the balls can be either of two colors. In that csae, all the distributions are univariate. In this article I examine the case where the

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Balls and urns: Discrete probability functions in SAS

If not for probability theory, urns would appear only in funeral homes and anthologies of British poetry. But in probability and statistics, urns are ever present and contain colored balls. The removal and inspection of colored balls from an urn is a classic way to demonstrate probability, sampling, variation, and

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Error distributions and exponential regression models

Last week I discussed ordinary least squares (OLS) regression models and showed how to illustrate the assumptions about the conditional distribution of the response variable. For a single continuous explanatory variable, the illustration is a scatter plot with a regression line and several normal probability distributions along the line. The

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No major hurricanes have hit the US coast recently. Lucky us!

Perhaps you saw the headlines earlier this week about the fact that it has been nine years since the last major hurricane (category 3, 4, or 5) hit the US coast. According to a post on the GeoSpace blog, which is published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), researchers ran

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Simulate the Monty Hall Problem in SAS

The Monty Hall Problem is one of the most famous problems in elementary probability. It is famous because the correct solution is counter-intuitive and because it caused an uproar when it appeared in the "Ask Marilyn" column in Parade magazine in 1990. Discussing the problem has been known to create

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What is the coefficient of variation?

I sometimes wonder whether some functions and options in SAS software ever get used. Last week I was reviewing new features that were added to SAS/IML 13.1. One of the new functions is the CV function, which computes the sample coefficient of variation for data. Maybe it is just me,

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Binning data by quantiles? Beware of rounded data

In my article about how to create a quantile plot, I chose not to discuss a theoretical issue that occasionally occurs. The issue is that for discrete data (which includes rounded values), it might be impossible to use quantile values to split the data into k groups where each group

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Does this kurtosis make my tail look fat?

What is kurtosis? What does negative or positive kurtosis mean, and why should you care? How do you compute kurtosis in SAS software? It is not clear from the definition of kurtosis what (if anything) kurtosis tells us about the shape of a distribution, or why kurtosis is relevant to

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Fat-tailed and long-tailed distributions

The tail of a probability distribution is an important notion in probability and statistics, but did you know that there is not a rigorous definition for the "tail"? The term is primarily used intuitively to mean the part of a distribution that is far from the distribution's peak or center.

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Stigler's seven pillars of statistical wisdom

Wisdom has built her house; She has hewn out her seven pillars.      – Proverbs 9:1 At the 2014 Joint Statistical Meetings in Boston, Stephen Stigler gave the ASA President's Invited Address. In forty short minutes, Stigler laid out his response to the age-old question "What is statistics?" His answer was

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Santa Claus, statistics, and understanding uncertainty

As the International Year of Statistics comes to a close, I've been reflecting on the role statistics plays in our modern society. Of course, statistics provides estimates, forecasts, and the like, but to me the great contribution of statistics is that it enables us to deal with uncertainty in a

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Why it's okay to guess on the SAT test

Should you ever guess on the SAT® or PSAT standardized tests? My son is getting ready to take the preliminary SAT (PSAT), which is a practice test for the SAT. A teacher gave his class this advice regarding guessing: For a multiple-choice questions, if you can eliminate one or two

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Duplicate values in a stream of random numbers

As I wrote in my previous post, a SAS customer noticed that he was getting some duplicate values when he used the RAND function to generate a large number of random uniform values on the interval [0,1]. He wanted to know if this result indicates a bug in the RAND