1F: Zombie Statistics: The Coming Apocalypse and How to Avoid It

With Laura Ziegler & Ulrike Genschel (Iowa State University)


Do you only use 10% of your brain?* Is it true that women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn only 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property?** These are examples of Zombie Statistics; statistics that repeatedly have been shown to be inaccurate but persist over time, refusing to die. In this session we will talk about our 1 credit semester-long seminar series on Zombie Statistics. We will provide suggestions and allow for discussion on how to best implement zombie statistics into your own teaching. We illustrate that zombie statistics are excellent for practicing students’ critical thinking skills and considering ethics as it relates to statistics. Our case studies are accessible to students of a variety of backgrounds including those with less statistical knowledge. At the same time, our case studies can be made as complex as needed for undergraduate seniors or first-year graduate students.

For this breakout session we select zombie statistics that can be used in particular to inspire discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion. In small groups, participants have the opportunity to actively engage in a particular zombie statistic case study, learn about its history and discuss a variety of questions related to the statistic.

*Hughes, S., Lyddy, F., & Lambe, S. (2013). Misconceptions about Psychological Science: A Review. Psychology Learning and Teaching, 12 (1). https://doi.org/10.2304/plat.2013.12.1.20
**Fast facts on gender equality at UNDP - July 2011. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.scribd.com/document/146177694/Fast-Facts-on-Gender-Equality-at-UNDP-July-2011