Most social science students hate statistics. There is a lot of fear and anxiety attached to statistics. Many of us became social scientists, and not ‘real’ scientists, because we sucked at mathematics. We thought by choosing psychology or sociology, we were never going to have to deal with mathematics again. Then on our first day at university we learn that we have to take statistics. It’s compulsory and if we don’t pass the statistics course, we don’t graduate! Say What?!!
Students hate statistics because they think that its mathematics. Yes, on one level it is mathematics. However, learning social science statistics nowadays is not like learning mathematics. Not in the way you did it in high school. Social science statistics are more grounded in real life. It is really about learning how to figure whether your research findings are important or not. For example, is gender related to driving behaviour?
Also, nowadays computer software like SPSS makes it almost unnecessary to learn statistical formulae. What you need to learn is the conceptual basis for deciding which statistical test to run for the data you have. This simply means then that you need to learn about how to design good research studies. Learning research methodology, takes you away from maths and into the realm of learning about concepts. Learning about concepts is easy. All social science students love learning about concepts (e.g. attribution bias or cognitive dissonance). Figuring out what type of study you are about to conduct is the basis on which you figure out which statistical analysis to perform. After that you go the software and click on buttons!
This is the first thing that social science students should be told, on the first day of their statistics class. Once they relax and understand what is needed, they may realise that they don’t hate statistics after all. In fact, they love it! Okay, maybe that’s overstating it a bit……