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Branch of mathematics dealing with gathering, analyzing, and making inferences from data. Originally associated with government data (e.g., census data), the subject now has applications in all the sciences. Statistical tools not only summarize past data through such indicators as the mean (seemean, median, and mode) and the standard deviation but can predict future events using frequency distribution functions. Statistics provides ways to design efficient experiments that eliminate time-consuming trial and error. Double-blind tests for polls, intelligence and aptitude tests, and medical, biological, and industrial experiments all benefit from statistical methods and theories. The results of all of them serve as predictors of future performance, though reliability varies. See alsoestimation, hypothesis testing, least squares method, probability theory, regression.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on statistics, visit Britannica.com.