Visualizing the Uncertainty in Data

Nathan Yau at FlowingData: “Data is a representation of real life. It’s an abstraction, and it’s impossible to encapsulate everything in a spreadsheet, which leads to uncertainty in the numbers.

How well does a sample represent a full population? How likely is it that a dataset represents the truth? How much do you trust the numbers?

Statistics is a game where you figure out these uncertainties and make estimated judgements based on your calculations. But standard errors, confidence intervals, and likelihoods often lose their visual space in data graphics, which leads to judgements based on simplified summaries expressed as means, medians, or extremes.

That’s no good. You miss out on the interesting stuff. The important stuff. So here are some visualization options for the uncertainties in your data, each with its pros, cons, and examples….(More)”.