It's a mistake to think that the average of a group applies to individuals in the group
Photo by Leo Foureaux on Unsplash
What is it about?
The ecological fallacy is a common and little understood error in the interpretation of statistical data wherein inferences about individuals are based on the aggregate of the group from which they belong. This opinion piece overviews the importance of avoiding the error and illustrates the ease with which mistakes in inference can be made by examining some papers appearing in recent conferences and journals, and by demonstrating with artificial data representing Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. It concludes with an appeal for caution when considering the combination of aggregate data with our surveys of individuals.
Why is it important?
Business decisions, government policy and often even our personal interactions are affected by what we believe is typical of a group. What is "typical" often is reduced to the simple average of the group. That simplification ignores the range of values within the group.
The following have contributed to this page: Associate Professor Hume F Winzar