Descriptive and Inferential Statistics

Read these sections and complete the questions at the end of each section. Here, we introduce descriptive statistics using examples and discuss the difference between descriptive and inferential statistics. We also talk about samples and populations, explain how you can identify biased samples, and define differential statistics.

Inferential Statistics

Random Assignment

In experimental research, populations are often hypothetical. For example, in an experiment comparing the effectiveness of a new anti-depressant drug with a placebo, there is no actual population of individuals taking the drug. In this case, a specified population of people with some degree of depression is defined and a random sample is taken from this population. The sample is then randomly divided into two groups; one group is assigned to the treatment condition (drug) and the other group is assigned to the control condition (placebo). This random division of the sample into two groups is called random assignmentRandom assignment is critical for the validity of an experiment. For example, consider the bias that could be introduced if the first 20 subjects to show up at the experiment were assigned to the experimental group and the second 20 subjects were assigned to the control group. It is possible that subjects who show up late tend to be more depressed than those who show up early, thus making the experimental group less depressed than the control group even before the treatment was administered.

In experimental research of this kind, failure to assign subjects randomly to groups is generally more serious than having a non-random sample. Failure to randomize (the former error) invalidates the experimental findings. A non-random sample (the latter error) simply restricts the generalizability of the results.